A heating unit in an unoccupied guest room at Bend’s Shilo Inn ignited curtains in a blaze Monday morning that fortunately went out on its own, causing $75,000 damage but no injuries, officials said.
Firefighters responded around 9:15 a.m. to the report a maintenance worker’s report of a possible fire in Room 521 at the hotel, located at 3105 O.B. Riley Road, said Deputy Fire Marshal Cindy Kettering.
The first arriving unit found the fire had self-extinguished, but the room was full of heavy soot, smoke and heat, Kettering said.
Other fire crews were canceled and the engine company on scene made sure the fire was out and checked for any extension, she said.
The attic was found to have some damage from smoke and soot, but the fire did not extend into the attic space and was confined to the room of origin, which was heavily damaged, the fire official said.
Kettering said an investigation found the fire began in the area of an older General Electric wall-mounted heat pump/air conditioner.
The room’s curtains had been closed, and an edge of the curtains landed on the heater unit, causing a fire to ignite when the thermostat kicked the heater on, she said.
Kettering said the fire went out due to lack of enough oxygen in the closed room to feed it.
"Fortunately, housekeeping staff did not open the room until at least a few hours after the fire had extinguished itself," she said. "Otherwise, a backdraft situation could have potentially occurred."
The smoke alarm sounded, she said, but was not heard by the few guests staying in that building.
"When the housekeeping staff opened the door, they could still hear a buzzing noise from the smoke alarm," Kettering said.
Kettering said the potentially tragic, but still-costly fire was a good reminder as nights turn cool “to begin thinking about the heating appliances” in homes and businesses.
She noted that any heat-producing device needs space around it, and that “it can be easy to forget about these appliances during the hot summer months and place combustible materials too close to them.
Each year in Oregon, there are nearly 600 fires related to heating equipment, Kettering said, resulting in 16 deaths and an estimated $8 million in damage.
Kettering recommended checking heaters, having chimneys inspected and cleaned, and remembering that heating appliances need at least three feet of clear space around them.