Smoldering cigarette butt causes two-alarm blaze

See the damage caused to an outer East Portland office complex by a discarded cigarette …

Firefighters work to limit the damage to this Hazelwood neighborhood medical clinic, after a cigarette butt – dropped in the barkdust outside the building overnight – sets the ground covering on fire.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

A fire at a professional office building at 13908 SE Stark Street, early on July 16, ended up as a two-alarm fire.

The blaze was at the site of Sunrise Dental, “Great Grins by Drs. Mutschler”, Stark Street Family Dental, and SmileKeepers Dental.

When the Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) Mill Park Station’s Engine 7 crew arrived at 6:29 a.m., they reported that the south exterior of the building was indeed on fire, and they saw smoke coming out of the attic vents.

Firefighters cut through heavy roof tile to reach the fire that had spread to the attic of the building.

“A ‘second alarm’ was called at 6:37 a.m. by the Battalion Chiefs to bring more resources to this fire,” reported PF&R Public Information Officer Lt. Rich Chatman.

While some of the firefighters quickly extinguished the exterior fire, others headed inside to fight the flames inside the building’s attic space.

Sturdy composite shingles made gaining access to the attic through the roof challenging. Mill Park Truck 2 firefighters’ heavy-duty saws ground away at the tiles longer than usual.

One carelessly discarded cigarette causes considerable damage to this dental clinic building.

“PF&R’s Arson Squad has determined that the cause of the fire was a discarded cigarette left in barkdust,” Chatman told East Portland News.

“Employees told investigators that at approximately 5:30 p.m. the night before, they thought they had put out smoldering bark dust outside the building by pouring water on it, and assumed the fire was out,” Chatman said.

“We remind citizens to properly extinguish your cigarette butts,” Chatman said. “If you do find a barkdust fire, and are unsure of how to properly extinguish it, call 911,” he added.

© 2016 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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