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Sandy man in serious condition after jumping from burning house

Neighbor helps extinguish the blaze

A Sandy man is listed in serious condition at a Portland hospital after he was burned in a fire that broke out in his home late Thursday. He was forced to jump from a second story window and landed on a car hood.

'I can't believe it,' said Guy Harrison, the man's father. 'Three tours in Iraq and he almost dies in a Christmas tree fire,'

Harrison said his son had dozed off on a living room couch when he smelled smoke and saw his Christmas tree had caught fire. He attempted to put it out with an extinguisher but was unable.

The room was full of smoke and the man couldn't open the front door to exit the house. He ran upstairs to his son's room, slid down the roof and landed on a car parked in the drive way.

When he jumped, he broke two vertebra and injured his face on the car windshield, which shattered.

Tim Quinn, a neighbor two doors down, said he heard a 'boom and a crunch.' When he walked over to the man's house, he noticed the man had a garden hose in his hand and was trying to extinguish the burning tree.

A neighbor was standing near the street and calling 9-1-1.

'I can't believe it,' the man told Quinn repeatedly. 'It's the Christmas season and my Christmas tree caught fire.'

Quinn said the man had a gash over his right eye and blood on his face from the fall. His hands were severely burned.

'I can't even explain it,' Quinn said. 'It looked like his palm had melted off. It was like fabric.'

Quinn took the hose and extinguished the fire.

The call from the 18,000 block of Wewer Road came into the Sandy Fire District at about 11:30 p.m. Firefighters arrived within moments, but the fire was already out. The blaze was contained to the living room.

The man was transported by ground ambulance to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center, Alice Busch, Sandy Fire District spokesperson said. There was no one else at home at the time of the fire but two dogs were safely evacuated.

"All of us at Sandy Fire District are hoping for a speedy and full recovery for the homeowner," Busch said.

Harrison said his son's face was badly burned and blistered, and the burns to his hands may require skin grafting. He said his son was expected to be released from the hospital in four or five days.

Fire investigators will be on scene today to search for the cause of the fire. Estimated damage to the home and contents is $35,000.

Fire crews said there is no structural damage to the home, but smoke and heat traveled up to the second story, melting the upstairs bathroom fan grill.

Busch also took the opportunity to remind people of the hazards associated with dry Christmas trees.

"We realize it's not unusual for folks to keep their trees up and decorated into the New Year," she said. "We also realize that not everyone knows how dangerous a dried tree can be."

Busch said that once a tree dries out, there is no bringing it back and it needs to be taken out of the house. Dried Christmas trees can have explosive fire behavior.

"Trees have a large surface-to-mass ratio, which makes them extremely hazardous when dry," Busch said. "It doesn't take much to ignite a dry Christmas tree.'

"They start very quickly and burn very hot," she added.