Humans blamed in three fires

A 16-year-old male could face criminal charges for starting a fire in the Heights.

Hood River District Attorney John Sewell will soon decide whether to pursue criminal charges against the boy, who has admitted he started a major fire in the Heights on Sept. 27.

On Thursday, Oregon State Police Arson Detective Ray Downey was finalizing the report that will be forwarded to Sewell next week. Sewell said the youth has admitted to starting a fire between a storage shed and a duplex while he was playing with a barbecue lighter and an aerosole can.

Hood River Fire Chief Don Petito said the juvenile panicked and ran away from the scene after igniting the blaze that destroyed a duplex on Sieverkropp Road and damaged a neighboring house on Kropp Court. Downey said the boy’s parents could be held liable for part of the estimated $375,000 in damages that led to the displacement of two families.

“It is a parent’s obligation to teach their child to not play with lighters or matches because of the potential fire danger,” Petito said.

He said the local fire department attempts to get that safety message across to children every year by visiting area schools. The emergency responders also have a special program in place to educate youth who have demonstrated an affinity for playing with fire but are not knowledgeable about the potential perils.

Hood River Valley firefighters swarmed to the Heights on Sept. 27 to find the shed and duplex already engulfed in flames. Their problems were compounded when an attic fire was sparked in the house next door, which sustained damage after being inundated with smoke and water.

The cause of another blaze, on Riordian Hill Drive the day after the Heights fire, has also been blamed on human activity. The flames that destroyed an abandoned house are believed to have been started by a candle. West Side Fire Marshal Jim Trammell made that determination because the unlocked residence had no electrical service and had been known to be a gathering place for juveniles. The house was fully engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived and embers had ignited in the nearby underbrush, eventually consuming about one-fourth of an acre of dry grass and vegetation. Petito said a candle left burning on a plastic table in a bedroom is also believed to have started a fire at the American Village Apartments in early September. The Avalon Way blaze began in unit number 35 and crept through the attic and vent system into neighboring units 33 and 34.

After the building was evacuated, the Hood River crew battled for almost five hours to keep the flames from spreading to any of the other 48 units that were housed in 10 separate buildings. Twelve adults and four children were displaced by the fire and forced to seek temporary shelter.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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