Fireplace mistake chars house on SE 133rd

This Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood blaze shows how using an accelerant to start a fire can nearly burn down your house …

Finished extinguishing a fire in this outer East Portland rental house, a firefighter shuts down his spray nozzle in the front yard.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

In the middle of our winter cold snap, a tenant residing in the house at 4207 SE 133rd Avenue apparently wanted to get a roaring fire going in the fireplace quickly, at about 7:30 p.m. on January 3.

“I smelled smoke, and looked outside, and saw fire shooting out of the chimney, from under the eaves, and then out the windows,” exclaimed next-door neighbor Fleurima Cedernier.

Fearing that his vehicle, parked near the lot line, could catch fire, Cedernier told East Portland News, he moved his SUV while calling the 9-1-1 Center to report the blaze.

This Engine 29 firefighter stands by at the front window of the burned house, water line in hand, in case embers were to rekindle the fire.

In less than five minutes, Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) Engine 29 from the Gilbert Station, followed immediately by the Engine 7 crew from Mill Park Station 7, pulled up to burning house.

While Engine 29’s crew pulled water lines, hooked up to the hydrant, and started pouring water into the living room area, other firefighters made their way into the house – now an inferno – and made sure all residents were out.

A firefighter looks at the extensive damage done to the house by the fire.

A total of seven firefighting units were called in, to make sure the wind-blown fire didn’t ignite other houses on the block. By their aggressive attack on the fire, it was extinguished in just a few minutes; but it took quite some time for crews to perform the overhaul (removing smoldering furniture and other charred fixtures) in the soot-blackened living room area.

A PF&R Arson Squad Investigator heads into the still-smoldering house.

At the scene, firefighters believed the fire had begun near the fireplace. It didn’t take long for a PF&R Arson Squad Investigator to confirm that initial assessment.

“The resident was trying to start a fire by pouring gasoline into a fireplace,” exclaimed PF&R Public Information Officer Ron Rouse to East Portland News. “Unfortunately, the fire caught the entire plastic gas can on fire, and the person then dropped it into the fireplace, further fueling the fire.”

Inside this burned out shell – the former living room of the house – firefighters begin gathering the burned debris to be removed.

“Even if you’re cold, please don’t pour any kind of fuel into a fireplace to start a fire!” entreated Rouse.

© 2017 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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