Projectile paint can prompts Fire Bureau call-out

See why this unusual call surprised even seasoned firefighters. And, oh yes – there is a valuable lesson provided by this incident …

Station 25 Portland Fire & Rescue Truck and Engine crews roll up, ready to extinguish what was dispatched as “a kitchen fire of unusual origin”.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
As firefighters rushed to a fire call in the 4700 block of SE 72nd Avenue on November 16, their radio dispatcher let them know they were not responding to a typical “burned food on the stove” kitchen fire.

Within less than five minutes after they were called at 5:06 p.m., crews from Portland Fire & Rescue Station 25 rolled up to the house – and were relived they didn’t find flames shooting windows or smoke billowing from doors.

“Initial reports were of a fire caused by aerosol spray paint cans being placed into a conventional cooking oven in an attempt to warm them for use in cool weather,” Gabriel Watson explained.

Firefighters rush to check the house, even though the homeowner said the kitchen fire had been extinguished.

We watched, as the homeowner talked with firefighters outside the home. “They learned that a fire extinguisher was used on the fire by the homeowner, prior to exiting the structure.”
Interior firefighters discovered no active fire; however, investigation confirmed placement of spray paint cans into the oven, and that several of the aerosol paint cans had exploded, Watson continued.

“Crew members found a phenomenon that we call ‘BLEVE’, or Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion,” said Watson. “One of the paint cans ruptured with force adequate to propel the paint can from the partially-opened oven, through the ceiling, and into the attic crawl space.

Even though the homeowner said the fire was out, PF&R crews check the house inside and out – just to make sure all was safe.

“Then, a subsequent explosion occurred inside of the oven, igniting a fire that damaged the kitchen,” Watson went on. “Firefighters located the projectile paint can in the attic, and extinguished the smoldering debris to prevent any further damage. Fortunately no injuries were caused by the explosions, projectile paint can, or resulting fire.”

Asked what others could learn from this incident, Watson replied, “Portland Fire and Rescue reminds everybody that, while commonly available, products stored under pressure can pose a serious danger when exposed to any heat source or flame.

“Users of such products must follow all printed safety warnings, labels, and directions. Only use these products in accordance with their intended purpose.”

No damage estimates are available at this time, Watson concluded.

Having retrieved the projectile paint, found among smoldering debris in the attic, firefighters prepare to head back to the firehouse.

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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