Home improvement materials catch S.E. home on fire

If you’re fixing up your house this summer – read this, and learn simple steps that may keep your home from being devastated …

Portland Fire & Rescue crews work to put out small fires and hotspots after knocking down the blaze.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
It was a nice evening for shooting hoops in the driveway of his family’s home on SE Lincoln Street, east of SE 60th Avenue, on July 15. But Jacob Duilio said his basketball practice was interrupted by wisps of smoke coming from behind a neighbor’s house.

“Right away, there was more thick, black smoke than I’ve ever seen,” Duilio told us. “It looked like the whole house was catching on fire. While I ran around to the front of the house [on SE 60th Avenue], I called 9-1-1. The fire trucks were here in a couple of minutes.”

According to official records, Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) crews were dispatched at 6:16 pm and arrived at the home in the 2300 block of SE 60th Avenue at 6:18 pm.

PF&R Engine Company 19, the first of three stations to respond, radioed back to the fire dispatcher, “There’s heavy fire coming from the back of the house.”

Although firefighters arrived within minutes after the call, the heat was so intense, it melted the siding off the neighbor’s home.

Melts siding off neighbor’s home
“Our neighbor across the street came over and woke us up,” recalled Mike Hupp, whose home is directly north of the burned house. “They told us to get out of our house.”

Hupp said he got his garden hose and sprayed water on the roof and side of his home in an effort to keep it, too, from catching on fire. “I did the best I could, but the fire was just too intense. I drove our motor home out of the driveway; I think it’s OK.”

“My neighbor watched as the vinyl siding on his house melted and ran down the wall facing the inferno,” Hupp added. “I think the Styrofoam insulation kept our house from catching on fire. The fire next door was everywhere; the whole back area. Fire was coming out of the roof, back, and sides – the flames were burning higher than the trees.”

Firefighters take care not to fall through the weakened structure as they search for hidden hotspots.

The back of this home is destroyed from the intense fire, believed to have started under the rear deck.

Firefighters on scene for hours
Although the front of the home looked relatively unaffected, the back and north side of the structure burned fiercely.

The Battalion Chief on scene, PF&R Deputy Chief Ed Fitzgerald, gathered information from neighbors, as firefighters cut vent and water holes in the roof, and attacked the fire from behind the house for more about 40 minutes before completely dousing the flames.

Crews stayed on scene, carefully walking around the charred structure, removing smoldering walls and beams, and putting out hot spots until 9:30 pm.

“No one was home at the time of the fire,” reported PF&R spokesman, Lt. Allen Oswalt. “There were no injuries, but sadly, a dog perished in the fire.”

According to the American Red Cross, their staff provided food and lodging services for the two adults and one child who returned home to discover that fire had destroyed 90% of their home and its contents.

Fire investigators look for possible ignition sources of this devastating home fire.

‘Spontaneous combustion’ blamed for blaze
“Portland Fire Investigators are blaming this house fire on spontaneous combustion,” Oswalt reported.

Spontaneous combustion occurs, Oswalt explained, when oils in paint, stains, and other products decompose. “This breakdown generates heat. If that heat is contained, it will increase to a sufficient temperature that will ignite rags, paper, and wood.”

It can take only a couple of hours, under certain conditions, for spontaneous combustion to occur, Oswalt said.

The Fire Bureau recommends that rags or paper products saturated with oil or oil-based products are disposed of in one of two ways:

  • Spread rags out in a single layer; allow them to dry completely for several days before disposing of them; or,
  • Put the rags in a metal container with a tight-fitting lid, in a shaded area, with good ventilation.

Oswalt also urged folks getting into home improvement projects – such as painting and staining decks, furniture, and fences – to read the entire label on the products you buy and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

“Many products have the potential to cause spontaneous combustion, asphyxiation, or even explosions,” he warned.

Crews tear open portions of the roof looking fire still burning in the attic.

After knocking down the blaze, the company from Station 19 doffs their protective turnouts and SCBA breathing gear..

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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