Lighter’s flick quickly sets garage afire

Because Portland Fire & Rescue’s crew arrived within four minutes of the call, the house was saved. There’s an important lesson here‚

Firefighters used power saws to slice open garage doors, to gain access to the fire raging inside.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Dressing up in firefighting outfits, called “turnouts”, on a 90-degree day, makes for a warm afternoon.

But, the heat of the day doesn’t slow crews from Portland Fire & Rescue from preventing a home in outer SE Portland’s Centennial Neighborhood, on the 14300 block of SE Woodward Street, from burning down on July 5.

By the time we arrive on scene, the fire is out, although smoke and steam is still pouring out of the attached garage.

Looking at his MVT (mobile data terminal), Portland Fire & Rescue Deputy Fire Chief Mark Schmidt confirms crews arrived within four minutes of getting the call. “It came in at 1424 [2:24 p.m.], and the truck arrived on scene at 1428.”

We ask why the city’s Deputy Fire Chief is in command; usually a district Battalion Chief directs the crews.

“I was coming out to meet to the Gresham Chief,” Schmidt says. “I was only blocks away, and came over.”

Asked to comment about the fire, Schmidt tells us, “This is a house fire. Most of the loss is in the garage. Also, there’s quite a bit of smoke damage inside the house.”

Although it’s hot work, crews use heat-sensing cameras to check for any hot spots left in the garage.

Schmidt notes that a training crew from Station 2 was called in to do the overhaul [checking for hot spots and removing burned material]. “On a hot day like this, it helps to have extra crew on scene‚ they spell off each other. It’s hot work, especially wearing these turnouts.”

As some of the firefighters paused to guzzle a bottle of water, no one complains. “We’re happy to serve,” one said, sweat pouring off his brow. “We saved a house today.”

The homeowner, Paula Farris, praised the bureau’s response. “We have a wonderful fire department. They arrived quickly and saved the house. Everyone was OK.”

A Portland Fire & Rescue training crew joins regular firefighters, spelling them off on this hot, July afternoon.

Lighter’s flick ignites blaze
Portland Fire & Rescue’s Lt. Doug Jones later tells us that fire investigators reported: “An 18 year old male was working in the garage working on motorcycle or vehicle. There was an open container of flammable liquid. He lit a [cigarette] lighter, or was using the flame from a lighter, and that accidentally ignited the vapors. He received minor injuries to his leg, but was treated on-scene.”

Jones adds, “We’re glad no one was seriously injured. But people have to use common sense with fire and open flame, when working with flammable fluids.”

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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