Cigarette blamed for Friday blaze

A working smoke detector is credited with alerting a family to a fire and allowing them to safely escape their burning apartment early Friday, July 28.

At 6:40 a.m. the family of five heard their apartment smoke detector sound in the 1000 block of Southeast Kane Drive, said Brett Swenson, a fire investigator for Gresham Fire and Emergency Services.

A 15-year-old boy sleeping on a living room couch heard the alarm, as did the rest of his family, including his parents and two sisters, ages 12 and 16.

Meanwhile, a neighbor across the street from the Rosewood Commons apartments reported flames coming from a unit. The family immediately fled the apartment without injury.

A total of 19 Gresham firefighters extinguished the blaze. The family's two tarantulas, python and assorted fish also survived.

The fire caused extensive damage to the living room, with heat damaging the rest of the apartment, Swenson said. Initial estimates indicate that the fire caused $20,000 worth of damage to the structure and $5,000 in damage to its contents.

Volunteers from the American Red Cross are helping the family, which didn't have renter's insurance, with shelter and other basic needs.

Swenson said a cigarette discarded into a plastic wastebasket next to the couch sparked the fire.

He credited the apartment's smoke detector with saving the family.

'Being that early in the morning and people still being asleep or partially awake, that's what got them out of there,' Swenson said.

In another interesting twist, Gresham police arrested a man at the fire scene for driving over a fire hose.

Police arrested Salvador Remigio-Molina, 21, unknown address, for failure to carry and present a license, according to a police report. Officers also cited him for not having a driver's license and for interfering with an emergency vehicle by driving across the hose in his white minivan.

'We don't like that,' said Battalion Chief Jason McGowan of residents who run over hoses while a fire is being fought.

It's is a multi-pronged safety issue, McGowan explained. Pressure from a vehicle stops the flow of water from reaching the fire. It also stops water from reaching firefighters, who use water to protect themselves from flames.

Wear and tear from car tires also could puncture or otherwise damage the expensive hoses. Plus the resulting surge of water pressure can catch firefighters off guard and cause injuries, Swenson said.

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