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Memories burn in two-alarm Flavel Drive house fire

by: DAVID F. ASHTON - Firefighters were on the roof of the large Flavel Drive house to attempt to ventilate the attic and access the fire there.Before the first fire crew arrived, Brentwood-Darlington homeowner Phyllis Palmer was safely outside – standing in the driveway of the house she’s owned for five decades, staring as her home erupt into flames. It was about 11 pm, on Friday night, June 14.

Just as engines from Woodstock’s Fire Station 25 rolled up to the big 3,024-square-foot home at 5644 S.E. Flavel Drive in the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood, a fireball exploded from the back of the house, lighting up the night sky.

“I was sleeping in the front room, in my sleeping chair, with my two dogs,” Palmer told reporters at the scene. “I heard the sound of glass breaking, like somebody was breaking in the window. I was afraid it was a burglary.”

She walked back to the kitchen to investigate, gun in hand. “Just then, the whole window exploded, and a giant fireball went clear up to the ceiling. I grabbed my purse and puppies, and took off out the front door.”

Firefighters first entered the burning home through the front door, as fire was erupting from the side of the home, and starting to spread to the second floor.

The Incident Commander immediately called for a “second alarm” – and every few minutes, another fire rig pulled up to the scene, including a mutual-aid engine company from Clackamas Fire District 1. Some of crews fought the fire; others protected a house situated on a “flag lot” behind the blazing home.

“The fire eventually made its way into the attic – that makes it extremely difficult to extinguish,” said PF&R spokesman Ron Rouse. “Fire crews initially made an interior attack, but then had to fight the fire from the outside, due to the large amount of furnishings inside.”

Neighbors speculated that the layout of the house also may have made navigating with no visibility difficult, because it had been expanded and remodeled since it was built 83 years ago.

“I’ve been told the house was filled with antiques, and a lot of other stuff,” said a neighbor who wished not to be identified. “For a while, a few years ago, it became known in the neighborhood as ‘the house with the perpetual yard sale’. But then, I think it was vacant for a while.”

On four occasions, firefighters knocked down the flames that leapt from the back, eves, and eventually from the roof of the house – only to see them flare up again. Flames were clearly visible through the front door; and yellow-orange fire roiled inside the second floor’s dormer windows.

Finally, a giant fireball belched upward from the center of the house as the roof collapsed.

Firefighters worked throughout the night, quenching flare-ups and dousing hot spots.

By daylight the next day, the extent of the damage to Palmer’s home and contents was clearly evident. Her Toyota, now parked in her driveway, looked to be filled with flea-market merchandise.

During the fire, she told reporters that she didn’t have insurance. “Everything I own is gone, except my two puppies.”

The cause of the fire remains under investigation; no damage estimate has been released as of THE BEE going to press.