Overloaded electric wire causes damage to house in Brentwood-Darlington

by: David F. Ashton, Thanks to the firefighter’s prompt response, only one firefighter “pan” was needed to remove burned debris from the home’s attic.

Just four minutes after the alarm sounded at 2:18 pm on the chilly afternoon of Sunday, March 2nd, the crews of Woodstock's Fire Station 25 rolled up to a house on the 6400 block of S.E. Duke Street.

They saw what their neighbor had reported - smoke rolling out of a vent in an attic area of the house, according to the Battalion Chief on scene, Terry Munro.

'Our crews got right up there and put it out with a portable fire extinguisher,' Munro explained. 'They had their water lines ready, just in case the fire grew larger.'

As it was, the prompt response of the crews kept the fire small. 'They're doing overhaul [removing burnt material, and looking for remaining embers] with just one 'pan',' added Munro. 'And, they're removing bits of insulation and other materials, to make sure they can get a good look at the source of the fire.'

We noted engines from Stations 11 and 20 were standing by, and asked why the bureau responded with so many crewmembers and equipment.

'It's our standard response to a house fire,' explained Munro. 'We don't know if it will be a large or small fire until we get there. It's better to have resources there, and not need them, then not have them and need them. It keeps a smaller fire smaller.'

When we later talked with PF and R spokesman Lt. Allen Oswalt about the fire, he revealed that inspectors had found that the fire started in a branch electrical circuit, not sheathed in metal, in the ceiling and roof of the house.

'The report says there was a failure in the power circuit where it went through structural members of the house,' commented Oswalt. 'Two space heaters, plugged into the same circuit, caused the overloaded wiring to arc.'

Due to fast firefighter response, total loss was kept to only about $1,000.

Oswalt reminded us that, with the return of Daylight Savings Time on March 9th, 'we have been suggesting that when you 'change your clock' you also install a new smoke alarm with a ten-year lithium battery.' And if you didn't do it then, it's not too late to do it now.

In 1998, the fire bureau spokesman reminded us, an Oregon law required that any new smoke alarm installed contain a 10-year lithium battery. 'The first ten years are up. If you installed a new one back then, it's time for buy a new unit.'

The new smoke alarms also have a 'hush button', he added. 'This button silences the alarm when nuisance smoke or shower steam accidentally sets it off.'

New alarms cost about $15. 'But remember, smoke alarms continue to provide the most important protection against death in a fire,' Oswalt reminded.