'Close call': Family barely escapes Bend house fire

Mom awakened to smell of smoke; iguana enclosure near woodstove the cause

Bend family escapes house fire

BEND, Ore. - Fire destroyed a home in southwest Bend Tuesday night -- and the smoke alarm battery was dead -- but the smell of smoke awakened the sleeping mother, and she and her three young kids narrowly escaped the blaze, officials said Wednesday.

They also said the cause of the fire was traced to an iguana enclosure too close to a woodstove.

Crews were called out just after 8:30 p.m. and arrived to find fire and heavy smoke coming from the front of the double-wide manufactured home at 20075 Alderwood Circle, just south of Reed Market Road by Farewell Bend Park.

Bend Fire Battalion Chief Bob Madden said the 25-year-old mother, Stephonie Smith, and her three children, ages 2, 5 and 7 were sleeping at the time of the blaze.

In an updated news release Wednesday, Deputy Fire Marshal Cindy Kettering said Smith "was awakened by the smell of smoke and the family narrowly escaped the fire."

Firefighters on scene as light snow fell and temperatures plunged well below freezing reported the fire knocked down in about a half hour.

The structure, valued at $20,000, and all $10,000 in contents were destroyed, Madden said, adding that they were not insured.

Kettering said an investigation found that an iguana enclosure, made of plastic mesh and PC pile, was located about eight inches from the woodstove – the primary heat source, which was in use. Combustible material placed too close to a heat source caused the fire, she said.

An American Red Cross disaster team was called in to assist the family with their needs. The Red Cross said its team provided food, clothing, shoes, bedding, comfort kits and information about health services.

"This was a close call," Madden wrote in a news release, "and emphasizes the importance of maintaining smoke detectors. All new smoke detectors come with a 10-year battery. Older smoke detectors should have the batteries changed annually. All smoke detectors should be tested monthly."

Kettering echoed those remarks, saying, "Had the mother not awakened to the smell of smoke, this incident could have easily resulted in loss of life."

An account has been established to help the family at Wells Fargo Bank in Stephonie Smith's name.

Many fire departments, including Bend, will provide and install smoke alarms at no cost for those who need them. Bend residents can call (541) 322-6309 for assistance; others should contact the fire agency in your area for more information on smoke alarms.

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