Husband, teenage grandsons escape early morning blaze on Laurel Street in first fire casualty in 13 years

A 76-year-old Forest Grove woman died in a fire at her home early Monday morning.

Velvalee Long was trapped in the bathroom of her home, located at 2235 Laurel St., when a fire raged through the house.

Long's husband and two teenage grandsons escaped the fire, with one grandson receiving serious burns to his hands, arms and face.

'It's an absolute tragedy,' said Forest Grove Fire Marshal Dave Nemeyer, who noted that the last fatal house fire occurred in Forest Grove in 1998.

Space heater suspected

Investigators believe Monday's blaze began in the couple's bedroom, where a space heater likely caused an electrical fire.

Before firefighters arrived, a Forest Grove police officer was on the scene and tried to break out the windows of the home in order to try and save Long, who used a wheelchair.

But the fire had already engulfed the house and entering the building was too dangerous, officials said.

By the time firefighters arrived on the scene, at about 1:53 a.m., flames as high as 10 feet were escaping from the front of the house and 15- to 20-foot flames were billowing out the back.

Roof showed signs of collapse

'The roof was already showing signs of collapse,' said Nemeyer. 'It wasn't a situation that we'd be able to enter.'

Nemeyer said the family noticed the fire when Long awoke to use the restroom in the night.

But no one recalls hearing a fire alarm sounding during the fire.

'Everybody who reads this article should take the 15 minutes it takes to test their fire alarm,' Nemeyer said.

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