Yard work, not firework, sets Hazelwood house ablaze

With all of the warnings against using fireworks, see what simple non-firework mistake is said to have caused this blaze …

A firefighter douses the flames running up the side of this home in Hazelwood. PF&R photo

By David F. Ashton
Very early on July 3, a Hazelwood neighborhood family ran from their home when they smelled smoke – and saw fire.

“At 5:21 a.m., dispatchers received a report of fire coming from the roof and rear of a home at 11001 NE Flanders Street,” reported Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) spokesman and firefighter Tommy Schroeder. “Because of a language barrier, dispatchers told arriving firefighters they were unsure if people had evacuated from the structure.”

Thick smoke pours out of the roof, after firefighters cut ventilation holes to let the heat and smoke escape from the burning house. PF&R photo
It was clear that the fire had gone up the wall, and then extended into the structure’s attic space, Schroeder said. “Crews went immediately to the roof to cut holes and ventilate the hot gases vertically. After a quick coordinated interior attack, fire crews cleared the home of potential victims and stopped the progress of the fire.”

After a thorough inspection of the scene and an interview with the occupants, Schroeder said that investigators learned that the occupants had been using a weed-burner to kill vegetation around the home, a few hours before the fire.

From above on the roof and below the house, firefighters continue to fight this fire. PF&R photo

“The weed-burning started a very small smoldering fire in the surrounding bark mulch, which slowly grew undetected – until it reached a wooden pallet that was next to the home,” Schroeder went on.

That wood, which burns more readily than bark mulch, ignited, and eventually caught the exterior of the home on fire. After burning up the outside wall, the fire entered the attic space through the eaves, allowing it to travel more quickly through the home.

Investigators speak with residents, and learn what activities led up to this delayed-reaction fire. PF&R photo

No injuries were reported, and the homeowners will be staying with family until the home is repaired. Damage is estimated at $15,000 to the structure and $2,500 to the contents.
“Using an open flame around structures creates a hazard,” Schroeder reminded. “Make sure the area is wetted or dampened, to reduce the risk of a delayed secondary ignition.”

© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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