Electrical fire causes minor damage in Brentwood Darlington

Had the fire gone unnoticed, it could have been much worse. See what else you can learn about fire safety by reading this one …

-1 Portland Fire & Rescue firefighters, arriving minutes after the fire was reported, quickly extinguish a fire in the upper level of this home.

Story and photo by David F. Ashton

Just four minutes after the alarm sounded at 2:18 p.m. on March 2, the crews of Portland Fire & Rescue (PFR) Station 25 rolled up to a house on the 6400 block of SE Duke St.

They saw what their neighbor had reported – smoke rolling out of a vent in an attic area in the house, according to the Battalion Chief on scene, Terry Munro.

“Our crews got right up there and put it out with a portable fire extinguisher,” Munro explained. “They had their water lines ready, just in case the fire grew larger.”

As it was, the prompt response of the crews kept the fire small. “They’re doing overhaul [removing burnt material, and looking for remaining embers] with just one pan,” added Munro. “And, they’re removing bits of insulation and other materials, to make sure they can get a good look at the source of the fire.”

We noted engines from Stations 11 and 20 were standing by, and asked why the bureau responded with so many crew members and equipment.

“It’s our standard response to a house fire,” explained Munro. “We don’t know if it will be a large or small fire until we get there. It’s better to have resources there, and not need them, then not have them and need them.  It keeps a smaller fire smaller.”

Thanks to the firefighter’s prompt response, only one pan was needed to remove burned debris from the home’s attic.

Fire due to overloaded circuits
When we talked with PFR spokesman Lt. Allen Oswalt about the fire, later this week, he said inspectors had found that the fire started in a branch electrical circuit, not sheathed in metal, in the ceiling and roof of the house.

“The report says there was a failure in the power circuit where it went through structural members of the house,” commented Oswalt. “Two space heaters, plugged into the same circuit, caused the overloaded wiring to arc.”

Total loss was about $1,000.

Update your smoke alarm
Oswalt reminded us that, with the coming of Daylight Savings Time on March 9th, fire departments suggest folks check their smoke alarm batteries.

“With the new available technology,” Oswalt said, “we’re now suggesting that when you ‘change your clock’ you install a new smoke alarm with a ten-year lithium battery.”

In 1998, the fire bureau spokesman reminded us, an Oregon law required that any new smoke alarm installed contain a 10-year lithium battery. “The ten years are up. If you installed a new one back then, it’s time for buy a new unit.”

The new smoke alarms also have a “hush button”, he added. “This button silences the alarm when nuisance smoke or shower steam accidentally sets it off.”

New alarms cost about $15. “But remember, smoke alarms continue to provide the most important protection against death in a fire,” Oswalt reminded.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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