Mobile home a victim of electrical fire, officials insist

Investigators claim the blaze was the fault of wiring gone bad; but a friend of the occupant says he believes the cause was quite different. Read this, and find out what we’ve learned …

Smoke billows from the mobile home, as firefighters douse it with water.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Flames were licking skyward, engulfing an older house trailer at the corner of SE 82nd Avenue of Roses and SE Bybee Boulevard, a little after 9:00 p.m. on April 12. The fire was stubborn, even though 21 Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) firefighters had been working to extinguish the blaze.

“PF&R Engine 11’s crew was the first to arrive, just under four minutes after the initial call,” Battalion chief District 4 Todd Keithley reported at the scene. “They found a single-wide mobile home fully involved with fire.”

After firefighters knocked down the fire, it flared up again.

Firefighters work diligently to extinguish the blaze in this mobile home at Bybee and S.E. 82nd.

The mobile home was located in very back of the one-time “Barth’s Mobile Home Court”, and a chain-link fence made access initially difficult, Keithley added. “Apparently, a power line fell, potentially energizing the metal fence – causing us to take extra precautions. Crews were able to work their way behind the trailer and pull some additional hose lines in, and put the fire out.”

Occupants of the trailer escaped without injury, Keithley told us; none of the firefighters was injured during the incident.

Says fire was caused by squatter
Five days after the fire, a man with whom we spoke at the fire scene approached us at an unrelated community event, and said he was a friend of the trailer’s occupant. He said a man – not the mobile home’s occupant – was behind the mobile home, burning insulation off electrical wires, preparing to sell the wire as scrap metal.

“The fire got out of control, and lit the trailer on fire,” stated the person, who wished to remain anonymous. “The person living in the trailer lost all of his possessions; he did not have insurance.”

Both the house trailer and its contents were listed as a total loss because the fire burned so fiercely.

Official cause: electrical arcing
Fire inspectors examined the scene and decided that the cause was electrical arcing, due to worn electrical conductor insulation. This arcing, located behind and beneath the mobile home, set rolled paper on fire. That fire, says the Fire Bureau, lit up the wooden members of the structure and ignited the mobile home.

Whatever the actual cause, the mobile home, valued at $10,000, and its contents, valued at $5,000, are considered a total loss, according to official reports.

Even though the flaming house trailer was tucked in the back of the lot, surrounded by chain-link fencing, firefighters prevented damage to other mobile homes closely parked near it.

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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