Wood stove causes explosive East Portland house fire

Witnesses say they heard an explosion just after the fire started. Here’s what’s been learned from officials …

These firefighters, working their way into the house by way of the garage, are met with thick smoke. Dick Harris, PF&R photo

By David F. Ashton
Unlike many structure fires that crackle while they burn, the house fire reported at 4:01 p.m. on February 21 went off with a “bang”.

“It sounded like a propane tank or gasoline can exploding,” remarked witness Jeff Stevens. “Several of us called 9-1-1 to report the fire.”

Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) units fought their way through heavy traffic on SE Powell Boulevard, working to get to a “flag lot” near the dead-end of 2924 SE 145th Avenue, in the Powellhurst Gilbert neighborhood.

On the roof, a ladder truck crewmember begins cutting “vertical ventilation” holes. Dick Harris, PF&R photo

Firefighters from PF&R Station 7 in Mill Park arrived first. “They reported seeing heavy smoke and fire, showing from the first floor/basement and from the second floor of a split level home,” said PF&R Public Information Officer Lt. Damon Simmons.

Firefighters began extinguishing the fire, while ladder truck crews began searching for trapped occupants.

“Firefighters determined that one man was home, but had vacated the structure,” reported Simmons. “The truck crews then laddered up the structure, and began cutting a hole in the roof to vent explosive gasses.”

Shattered window glass in this house indicates how hot this fire burned, before it was extinguished. Dick Harris, PF&R photo

The fire was brought under control, and then firefighters began the difficult and labor intensive task of overhaul – searching the structure and removing burning material to ensure that the fire doesn’t rekindle.

“A Portland Fire Investigator has determined that this fire was caused by a wood burning stove, and has estimated damages at $18,000,” Simmons said. “This fire required a single alarm response.”

> Front Page Photo: Dick Harris, PF&R

© 2014 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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