Fire Season Starts in Portland

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DickH

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The fire season got off to a running start in Portland with 3 fires in two days caused by faulty
and/or overheated fireplaces. They were all in Southeast Portland. The first two were yesterday
in the "Far East" at 155th and 158th Aves. The third and worst fire was in the "Middle East" at
SE 79th Ave. with the temperature in the low 20s and a stiff east wind.
My pager went off at 0513, luckily just as I finished dressing. The call was for a house fire at
305 SE 79th Ave. The response was E19, 9, 28, 12, Truck 7, C4 & C3. Fortunately, I had put
the lining in my coat last night and just as I was putting it on, Lt. Jim Worlein, Engine 19,
reported smoke showing from a 1-1/2 story house.

News Release from: Portland Fire & Rescue
UPDATE W/PHOTOS – FIREPLACES CAUSE THREE HOUSE FIRES (ATTACHED)
Posted: December 7th, 2009 1:46 PM
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At 5:14 am, Portland Fire and Rescue responded to a residential fire at 306 SE 79th Avenue. When fire crews arrived at 5:17 am, they found smoke coming from the house. All occupants were out of the house. Fire crews immediately began an interior attack on the fire. The fire had gotten into the walls and attic of the home, which made firefighting operations difficult. The cold weather caused water sprayed on the fire to freeze. This made walking on sidewalks and the street extremely hazardous. After chasing the fire down in the attic, and having part of the roof collapse, fire crews had the fire under control at 6:22 am.

Fire investigators determined that the fire was caused by the fireplace. Heat from the fireplace had caused the wood frame members to char over time and then ignite this morning. The residents of the home had been using the fireplace as their primary source of heat over the last couple of days. They hung blankets in passageways to keep the heat in the utilized portion of the home. The working smoke detectors were in the rooms blocked off from the fire. The residents were fortunate to escape the fire without injuries.

This fire was deemed accidental.

In addition to the safety reminders mentioned in the previous press release (below), Portland Fire and Rescue recommends that you have a working and tested smoke detector in all the rooms where you are sleeping. Smoke detectors are your first warning of a fire while you are sleeping.

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News Release from: Portland Fire & Rescue
IMPROPERLY INSTALLED FIREPLACE CAUSES HOUSE FIRE
Posted: December 6th, 2009 2:42 PM

Portland Fire and Rescue responded to two residential house fires in the last 12 hours that involved fireplaces. One of those fires was caused by improper fireplace installation.

At 2:57 am early this morning, Portland Fire and Rescue responded to a residential fire at 1755 SE 158th Avenue. When fire crews arrived at 3:02 am, they found fire in the attic near the chimney and under the fireplace insert. Fire crews quickly extinguished the fire and the fire was under control at 3:32 am. Wood frame members being exposed to the chimney and fireplace insert heat over a long period of time was the origin of this fire.

At 11:37 am, Portland Fire and Rescue responded to a residential fire at 10038 SE Long Street. When fire crews arrived at 11:40 am, they found a small fire in the crawl space near the fireplace. Fire crews quickly extinguished the fire with a water extinguisher and the fire was under control at 11:46 am. The origin of this fire was caused by an improperly installed woodstove.

Both fires were deemed accidental.

The weather has gotten very cold and citizens may be looking for more economical ways of heating their homes. While a wood-burning fireplace maybe a good option, the fireplace, fireplace insert, and/or woodstove must be installed following the manufacturer's recommended installation specifications. The best option is to have a professional install the fireplace.

Fireplaces can produce both high levels of heat and sustained heat for a long period of time that can cause wood frame members to ignite. In the case of the second residential fire, the wood floor was to close to the bottom of the woodstove and caused the wood to first char and then ignite over a long period of time. The other safety concern is that all chimneys need to be cleaned on a regular basis. Chimney fires can cause attic fires due to the high level of heat coming off the chimney near wood frame members in the attic.
 
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