Boy sets family’s home ablaze, in Hazelwood

See why the Fire Bureau says this youthful fire-setter isn’t unique – and is part of a problem growing across the nation …

Portland Fire & Rescue firefighters ladder-up to the roof of this small home, ready to open it up and put out the blaze. Dick Harris/PF&R photo

By David F. Ashton
On October 5, Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) crews raced to a two-story house in the 1800 block of SE 139th Avenue in the Hazelwood Neighborhood, responding to a fire call at 6:56 p.m.

“Upon arrival, firefighters found heavy black smoke coming from the upstairs of the structure,” reported PF&R spokesman Paul Corah. “A search of the home found that all occupants had safely escaped the fire. Firefighters brought the fire under control at 7:15 pm.”

The Red Cross was called to assist an adult and five children who live in the home with temporary housing needs.

While firefighters work to put out the fire inside the home, others cut a vent hole in the roof to let out the smoke, and to check for an attic fire. Dick Harris/PF&R photo

Fire set by youngster
It didn’t take long for the PF&R Fire Investigator to confirm the cause of the blaze – said to have done about $20,000 in damage to the residence: The initial call to the 9-1-1 Center presented key information. “When the call came in,” Corah stated “it indicated that a child occupant of the home lit a fire in the upstairs of the home.”

The next day, Corah announced, “Fire Investigators have determined that the fire was caused by a six-year-old boy, playing with a lighter. He is being referred to PF&R’s Youth Firesetter Program.”

Don Porth, the Bureau’s Public Education Senior Fire Inspector, who’d presented information regarding PF&R’s program at a national symposium in June in Baltimore, observed that, “Youth fire-setting has been identified as the fastest-growing fire threat in the United States.”

Porth said that more than 300 people are killed, and nearly $300 million dollars in property is destroyed, by fires set by children – every year. “More than 30% of the victims are the children themselves.”

Fortunately, no one was injured this time, when a child lit up his house.

PF&R’s Youth Firesetter Program provides a coordinated effort in helping youth firesetters and their families receive the help they need – through education, diversion, assessment, and psychological services, Corah added.

Have questions about youthful fire-setting? Contact PF&R’s Juvenile Firesetter Program Manager at (503) 823-3806.

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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