Smoke alarm saves home

Potentially deadly cracks in the chimney masonry led to a fire in the attic space of a Sherman Avenue home on Sunday.

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Potentially deadly cracks in the chimney masonry led to a fire in the attic space of a Sherman Avenue home on Sunday.

A working smoke alarm and a quick fire department response helped prevent what could have been a devastating house fire on Jan. 6 at 1605 Sherman Ave. in Hood River.

At 2:30 a.m. on Sunday morning, Hood River Fire and EMS crews responded to an emergency phone call from the property renter reporting a suspected chimney flue fire. The occupant had been awakened by a working smoke alarm when smoke began filing his home.

When crews arrived, they found smoke coming from the eves and walls of the single-story home.

Searching for the source, firefighters opened the interior walls around the chimney and found fire in the interior space between the chimney and house framing. The fire was not contained inside the flue.

The cause of the fire was determined to be cracks and spaces between bricks in the chimney that allowed heat and fire to penetrate into the house frame. Wood around the fireplace showed intense heat damage that had been occurring, potentially for years. The wood framing around the bricks had finally ignited.

With the coordinated fire crew efforts, the fire was immediately extinguished and no additional fire involvement was found in the attic space or throughout the house.

Wells noted that the occupant first called the fire department offices directly to report what he believed was a flue fire. He was immediately advised to call 911, initiating a full-scale response.

When firefighters arrived on scene, the fire was upgraded to a first alarm when crews arrived and found fire in the walls.

“Working smoke alarms save lives and limit property damage,” says Fire Chief Devon Wells. “The occupant of this fire was saved from serious injury or death, and the damage to his home was limited because of early detection.”

Wells also advises that people should call 911 immediately and avoid using the fire department’s business phone number. “You never know if we are on another call and not at the station. Calling 911 will get responders coming faster and more efficiently.”

Cracked chimney mortar is a dangerous condition that can lead to chimney flue fires. Although the home’s chimney had been cleaned in fall 2012, the cracks had not been detected.

“If your chimney shows signs of age or the mortar appears to be falling out, have a chimney service inspect the liner,” said Wells. “That is the only way this fire could have been prevented — by having the mortar replaced or inserting a fully enclosed liner inside the chimney.”

No injuries were reported in the event that utilized 15 firefighters, including five from West Side Fire District. According to Wells, this incident marks the first fire of 2013 for the department, which has already answered more than 25 emergency calls this year.


For more information on smoke alarms, or to find out how you can volunteer for Hood River Fire & EMS, call the fire station at 541-386-3939 or stop by the Ty Taylor station located behind the swimming pool at 17th and May streets.

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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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