Finned friends fall victim as tank fire douses itself

Jan. 11, 2011

A fire really can happen in a fish tank.

This is what veteran firefighters, and a Hood River family, learned on Thursday.

Serious damage was averted when fish tank water apparently spilled onto a fire that started in the tank motor inside Pete and Lindy Talmage's home on Rocky Ridge Court, west of Hood River.

It was also a case of the second self-quelling local fire in less than a week (see sidebar, page A9).

"In 30-plus years, this one I have never seen before," said Tom Sieverkropp, incident commander.

The tank was left a charred hulk in the corner of the foyer, but fire damage to the house was minimal.

However, "It's pretty extensive as far as soot all over the house," Sieverkropp said, estimating the damage at $5,000. The walls, furnishings and carpets throughout the house, including bedrooms upstairs, are covered, according to Sieverkropp.

Lindy Talmage was home just after noon with her son, Chase, 4, when dark smoke filled the house. It turned out to be burning plastic from the fish tank cover.

She first tried 9-1-1 but said the phone would not ring the number, so she speed-dialed a friend, who called emergency dispatch. West Side Fire Department and Hood River Fire Department were there in minutes. Odell Fire mobilized but Sieverkropp turned them back when he learned the fire itself was out.

The fire charred the wall and cathedral ceiling of the Talmage entryway, where the fish tank is located, but the Talmages acknowledged they were fortunate the damage was not worse.

The fire evidently superheated the tank glass, which broke, releasing the water onto the fire, according to Sieverkropp.

Pete said he rushed home to help and found the inside filled with sooty smoke.

"It was just thick inside. I wasn't sure at the time if it was from the fire, or the charcoal filter in the tank, or both," he said.

Firefighters put up high-powered fans to draw smoke out, but Lindy said they'll have to deal with heavy damage.

He said the fire started when "either the motor shorted or a light on top caught fire. It looks like there was something in the wiring. The fire ran up the wires in back of the tank and up the wall. I'd never seen that before."

No one was injured - other than the fish.

"They weren't expensive," Lindy said.

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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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