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Woodstove spark plus household chemicals led to garage explosion

The fiery explosion that rocked a Southwest Gresham neighborhood and destroyed a garage on Sunday, Oct. 8, was the result of a woodstove ember that landed on combustible materials and then ignited with household chemicals, said a Gresham fire investigator.

An ember or spark from a garage woodstove at 2400 S.W. Towle Avenue ignited combustibles and smoldered for a while, said Brett Swenson, a fire investigator with Gresham Fire and Emergency Services. Eventually the heat came in contact with vapors from propane, solvents and other household chemicals stored in the garage, causing the massive explosion at 8:15 a.m.

Firefighters extinguished the blaze that destroyed the garage, totaled two motorcycles and damaged the eves on the back of the house and three vehicles.

The homeowner had lit a warming fire in the garage woodstove at 6 a.m. before going inside the house to cook breakfast. A few hours later while in the kitchen he saw the garage doors blow by the kitchen window and called 9-1-1, according to a fire report.

Residents from as far as 182nd Avenue and Powell Boulevard reported feeling and/or hearing the blast.

Damage to the garage is estimated at $40,000. Estimates for damage to the vehicles, house and the garage's contents, including valuable antiques, are still being compiled.