Fire was always a danger in early Alvarado, especially since there was no fire department and everyone used fire on a daily basis, either for cooking or lighting.
The November 19, 1863 issue of the Sacramento Daily Union had a short article on a house fire in Alvarado:
On Friday morning, November 13th, about 3 o’clock, the residence of one Smithurst, in Alvarado, was totally destroyed by fire, consuming all the earthly goods of Smithurst and family. One of the children, a boy, becoming restless in the night, arose and lighted a cigar, and went to bed smoking. This is supposed to have been the origin of the fire.
The 1870 Census shows the Smithurst family with two boys, John Jr. and Joseph. Their ages in 1863 would be 12 and 17 respectively. For me, it seems rather odd that a boy, even at the age of 17, would be smoking cigars. Since the first manufactured cigarette in the US was in 1864, I guess the only form of smoking was cigars.