Family encourages community members to prepare for a fire

by: SUBMITTED - Austin Sloop, 17, of West Linn put out a fire near his family's garage and chicken coop with a fire extinguisher and garden hose.  Austin Sloop awoke to the sound of crackling at 2 a.m. on Oct. 23. At first, the 17-year-old from West Linn thought his neighbors were having a bonfire. But when he opened the window, he saw an orange flow.

Sloop ran downstairs and looked out the kitchen window, only to discover 8- to 10-foot flames coming off the backside of his family’s garage and chicken coop on Rosemont Road.

Despite the fact that his parents were out of town — he reacted. He called to his 72-year-old grandfather who was asleep in the house, which in turn awoke his 14-year-old sister. He grabbed the fire extinguisher — one of many in the home — from inside the kitchen and ran outside and attacked the flames.

“It kind of seemed like a third-person experience,” he said. “There was a little bit of fear, but mostly my adrenaline created an automated reaction.”

His quick actions, coupled with his grandfather’s help, put out the fire within about 40 minutes. In the end, the fire burned part of a lean-to chicken coop and its fencing and charred a 10-by-10 foot patch of siding on the garage. The family has yet to assess the monetary damages.

“We believe there would have been a different story had he not reacted,” said Austin’s mother, Kelly Sloop. “We could have lost our house, and I do believe that Austin saved the lives of the people in the house.”

by: SUBMITTED - The fire burnt a 10-by-10 foot patch of siding on the garage and portions of the chicken coop.

Gut reaction

Alli Sloop awoke to her brother’s shouting. She opened her windows and saw billowing smoke and the glow of a fire.

“Austin just knew exactly what to do. I’m totally proud of him,” she said.

Sloop emptied the fire extinguisher on the flames, but glowing embers remained. Next, Sloop and his grandfather soaked the embers with water from a garden hose. Once the embers had cooled, the duo removed the garage siding with a crowbar to ensure the fire hadn’t spread into the charred walls.

“I was just kind of reacting,” he said. “I’ve never used a fire extinguisher before — I don’t know if I ever attended a fireman’s seminar as a kid. It was just something I knew how to use.”

Sloop also crawled into the attic to make sure the fire hadn’t gotten into the roof. He said his precautionary actions were guided by the fire at West Linn High School, which occurred on Oct. 8.

Allie Sloop opened the windows on the opposite side of the house to prevent smoke damage and checked on the six chickens whose coop caught fire.

“The chickens got out and were just sitting, huddled in the corner in shock,” she said.

The family believes the fire started in the chicken coop due to either faulty wiring or a turned-over heat lamp, which caught the pine pellets in the coop on fire. Parents Mike and Kelly Sloop were called the following morning with the news.

“Austin just amazes me all the time,” Kelly Sloop said. “He is just a very level-headed, mature 17-year-old, and I’m not surprised he knew what to do. I’m just very proud of him because that’s a lot of responsibility to deal with.”

Sloop said he was better prepared to handle the fire because his family practices fire safety. Because of their remote location, the family has a handful of fire extinguishers in the home, fire ladders in the upstairs bedrooms, smoke alarms and a fire plan to get out of the house and meet up with one another.

“The only thing I would have changed is I would have called the fire department right when it started,” Sloop said.

News of the fire spread fast throughout the West Linn community and at Sloop’s school, Westside Christian High School in Lake Oswego.

“We started telling people what happened; it was very concerning because everyone we had talked to didn’t have a fire extinguisher in their home,” Kelly Sloop said.

“We encourage families to get a fire extinguishers and talk to their kids,” added Allie Sloop. Fire tips

Brian Barker, public affairs officer with Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue, said Sloop’s reaction — especially to pull off the siding of the house and check the attic — was uncommon.

“There is a natural reaction to fight a fire and get everyone out of the house, but the thing I want to highlight is if something like this occurs, get out and call 911.

“I’m glad this family is OK. But we recommend you call the fire department anytime there is a fire. We bring expertise and countless hours of training to the scene.”

Barker said in a worse case scenario, the Sloop family could have gone back to sleep and the smoldering embers could have ignited and started another fire.

“These things can smolder for quite some time and even start a fire the next day,” he said, noting that TVF&R uses thermal technology to ensure fires are completely out.

However, Barker said the family was well prepared with fire extinguishers, ladders and smoke alarms inside their home.

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Fire extinguisher tips

  • The letters on the label of an extinguisher indicate what type of fire to use it on:
  • A: Class A fires involve common combustibles including wood, paper, cloth, rubber, trash and plastics;
  • B: Class B fires involve flammable liquids, solvents, oil, gasoline, paint, lacquer and other oil-based products;
  • C: Class C fires involve energized electrical equipment, including wires, motors, machinery and appliances.
  • Make sure to use the right extinguisher for the type of fire.
  • Fire extinguishers are designed to put out small fires.
  • Most portable extinguishers are designed to last only seconds.
  • If the fire gets large, do not attempt to extinguish it — get out and stay out. When exiting, close doors behind you to slow the spread of the fire. Call 911 from a safe place.
  • When using a fire extinguisher, stand 8 to 10 feet away from the fire with a clear path to an exit behind you.
  • Use the PASS method: Pull the pin, aim at the base of the fire, squeeze or press the handle, sweep from side to side at the base of the fire until it goes out.
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