Candles, space heaters and other winter hazards are culprits in area fires
by: Anthony Roberts, CCFD #1 firefighter Steve McAdoo demonstrates how the “flameless” candles turn on and off.

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After a series of fires in the Portland Metro area sparked by unattended candles or heaters, firefighters with Clackamas County Fire District #1 are reminding residents to keep an eye on their flames while offering a possible alternative: the flameless candle.

CCFD #1 determined that a Jan. 7 house fire at 9720 SE 32nd Ave. in Milwaukie that caused $170,000 worth of damage was caused by a candle. That was followed by a West Linn house fire on Jan. 19 that caused $25,000 worth of damage to a home on Rosemarie Drive. Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue responded to that fire. A Jan. 24 fire in Battleground, Wash., started when a homeowner cleaned out a wood stove and the ashes melted a plastic container on the home's wooden deck. CCFD #1 also did a recent welfare check on an elderly man; it turned out his heat wasn't working and he'd become ill.

CCFD #1 firefighter Steve McAdoo said cold snaps like the recent dip in the mercury in the area create a need for residents to be more aware.

'We need to make sure we're checking on our elderly neighbors,' he said. 'You need to make sure that combustibles aren't too close to space heaters.'

CCFD #1 has already taken steps to make sure an unattended candle never causes any damage at its stations. McAdoo showed off new flameless candles purchased for several of the stations in the district. The candles are still made partially of wax, so they smell like a real candle. But instead of a flame they have two small light bulbs, and at the base of the candle is a small compartment. The candles McAdoo was 'burning' at CCFD #1's Lake Road station came from the upscale retailer Brookstone, although several Web sites also sell them.

Candle-caused fires in the district account for $92,700 worth of damage each year, according to CCFD #1. According to the State Fire Marshall's office, candles are responsible for 20 percent of all home-fire related deaths. In 2006, they accounted for five deaths, 15 injuries and $3.1 million in combined damages.

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