BEND, Ore. - Combustibles left too close to a space heater sparked a fire that destroyed a home in northeast Bend early Thursday, but a smoke alarm awakened the sleeping resident, who was able to flee unharmed, officials said.
Firefighters responded around 3:30 a.m. to the fire reported at a home at 3450 NE Purcell Blvd. (near Butler market Road), a single-story home owned by Doris Thompson, said Battalion Chief Dave Howe.
Thompson was awakened and alerted to the fire by a working smoke detector, and ran across the street to call 911 from a neighbor's home, Howe said.
"Working smoke detectors save lives, and this is a prime example," he said.
The home, valued at $225,000, was a total loss, as were $75,000 worth of contents, the fire official said.
The Red Cross was notified and is assisting the woman, Howe said.
More than a dozen firefighters were called out on the blaze, and Sunriver firefighters helped cover district calls, he said.
Investigators found that combustibles had been placed too close to a space heater, said Deputy Fire Marshal Dan Derlacki, adding that the working smoke alarms saved the woman's life.
Most space heater warning labels indicate to keep combustible items at least 18 inches away from the heater, so it can work efficiently and not heat the combustibles to the point where they will ignite.
Temperatures overnight dropped into the 20s in Bend, causing the heater to activate, Derlacki said.
Derlacki called it a costly but timely reminder about checking smoke alarms, cleaning heating appliances and ensuring combustibles are cleared away from them.
Coincidentally, the fire department had on Thursday morning put out a list of cold-weather safety reminders around your home:
- Give heating appliances space! Keep at least three feet of empty space between heaters, furnaces, woodstoves and combustibles, like furniture, curtains, paper, and firewood.
- Only use heaters that are approved for indoor use! Outdoor units can cause many health and safety risks if used indoors.
- Barbecues, charcoal grills and camp stoves are for outdoor use only. These items produce carbon monoxide. Odorless and colorless, a build-up of carbon monoxide can be deadly.
- Install a Carbon Monoxide (CO) detector in your home if you have wood, oil, or gas fueled appliances, or an attached garage.
- Always follow the manufactures safety guidelines when using any heating device.
- Inspect and clean your chimney by a certified chimney sweep for creosote build-up, cracks, crumbling bricks, damaged pipes and obstructions.
- Ensure heaters are clean prior to using. Clean any dust, lint or combustibles off the heater before using it.
- Never use extension cords with portable heaters. It is a common cause of fires.
- Check the cord on portable electric heaters. If the cord gets hot, frayed, or cracked discontinue use and replace the unit.
- Turn off portable heaters when family members leave the house or are sleeping.
- Make sure your portable heater is UL approved and has a tip-over shut off function.
- Never hang items to dry above or within three feet of a heating unit.
- Have your furnace serviced regularly as recommended by the manufacturer and replace the filters as needed.
- And as always, make sure you have a working smoke alarm in your home at all times. Smoke alarms in Oregon should at least have a battery back up so that it is working even if your home has lost power.
For more information on heating safely contact your local Fire Department.