Fire consumes house on Columbia

A Hood River family must find a new place to live after a fire caused significant damage to their Columbia Street home Monday afternoon.

Firefighters were called to the home of Cipriano Garcia and Zenaida Perez Garcia that they rent at 1534 Columbia St., shortly after 1:30 p.m., Monday after neighbors reported seeing flames leaping from the windows and vents of the single-family residence.

According to Laura Garcia Rangel, the niece of Cipriano and Zenaida who translated for her aunt and uncle, Zenaida was home alone doing laundry and folding clothing early Monday afternoon when she noticed an odor that “smelled like burning paper, only stronger.”

Initially, Zenaida was unable to find the source of the odor, which appeared to be coming from the dryer, but nothing appeared to be burning inside the appliance. Laura said her aunt then noticed flames creeping up the outside of the house near the dryer vent.

According to Laura, Zenaida did not have access to a cellphone and ran outside to knock on neighbors’ and relatives’ doors who lived in the area, but it took her multiple attempts before she could find someone to call 911.

Hood River, West Side, and Wy’east fire departments all responded to the incident, as well as Hood River Police Department and the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office. Firefighters immediately began spraying water on the east side of the home where the majority of the flames were concentrated while another group of firefighters breached the main entrance located on the south side of the residence. As the house was doused with water, smoked billowed across Columbia Street, entirely obscuring the view of the house.

Zenaida sat on the ground outside and watched in despair as her home burned, while her next-door neighbor, Cindy Pryor, embraced her and talked to her in a soothing tone in English, though Zenaida only spoke Spanish.

“All I could do was hold on,” Pryor said. “I was hoping my tone of voice would help comfort her.”

Pryor’s daughter, Selena Ward, who lives with her mother and her father, Larry Pryor, at 1536 Columbia, was one of the neighbors who called 911. Ward’s 4-year-old son, Kian, who Ward says wants to be a firefighter, was playing in the front yard when he noticed the smoke next door and ran to alert his mother.

“He ran inside and yelled, ‘Mommy, Mommy, call the firemen!’” Ward said. “He knew just what to do.”

Ward said she ran outside and saw flames leaping from the vents located on the roof of the house and then ran back inside to call 911.

No one was injured in the fire, but the flames did “a significant amount of damage” according to Hood River Fire Captain Clay McCrea, who said the fire burned the eastern portion of the house and “fully involved” the attic before it was extinguished. As of press time, the fire department was still investigating the cause of the fire and assessing whether or not the home — which according to property records is owned by a couple from Tigard — is a complete loss.

The Red Cross provided assistance to Zenaida and Cipriano as well as their two children, Adrian, 20, who works at the Crazy Pepper, and Ernesto, 14, who attends Hood River Valley High School. Laura said her family is taking care of her aunt, uncle, and cousins, but are now trying to find them a new home.

“We’re looking for something for them to rent,” she said. “Just an affordable place to live.”

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