Crews stop McGrath Road house fire

Cause: Improper ash disposal; 2nd fire E. of Bend destroys shed

By Cari Lampshire
POSTED: 5:41 PM PST December 24, 2013    UPDATED: 4:50 PM PST December 17, 2013 
McGrath Rd house fire Dennis Welbourn
BEND, Ore. -

Bend firefighters were able to stop a blaze tearing through a home east of Bend Monday night, but not before it caused an estimated $220,000 damage to the house, its contents, and two vehicles officials said.

Firefighters were called just after 10:30 p.m. to the burning single-story home of Mark Carlton and renter Ron Tennant at 22818 McGrath Road, east of Bend Airport, said Battalion Chief Dave Howe.

It took about 10 minutes for the first engine to arrive, crews on scene said, and when they arrived, the west end of the home was ablaze, along with a carport, truck and van.

The two residents were alerted by working smoke detectors in the home, and they and a dog had escaped unharmed, said Deputy Fire Marshal Dan Derlacki.

Both vehicles were destroyed, but crews were able to stop the fire and save about half of the house, Howe said.

Derlacki said an investigation found the fire was caused by the improper disposal of ashes from a pellet stove.

The residents had cleaned the stove out with a "shop vac" the evening of the fire, Derlacki said, but the ashes were left in the vacuum in the carport -- and they stayed hot enough to reignite a few hours later, spreading to other combustibles in the carport.

Losses were estimated at $100,000 to the home and $40,000 to the contents, plus $70,000 to the two vehicles and $10,000 worth of contents. The American Red Cross was contacted to provide assistance to the residents, who planned to stay with family.

Residents and neighbors praised firefighters for their efforts in saving part of the house, as well as many of the belongings inside.

Two fire engines, two water tenders, a rescue truck and ambulance were called to the scene, for a total of 18 personnel. A “paid man callback” was declared to help staff stations during the fire, the first of two battled by Bend firefighters overnight east of town.

Fire crews entered the east end of the home and kept the fire from that part of the home, where there was smoke but no water damage. They also tried to move a burning pickup away from the home, to give them room to work, but it was in gear, and the tires had melted, officials said.

Dennis Welbourn, who lives across the street, saluted firefighters for "getting the fire under control quickly and keeping it from spreading."

"Hats off to them, and the (Deschutes County) sheriff's officers who helped," Welbourn told NewsChannel 21.

Shortly after 4 a.m., Bend firefighters responded to a barn fire at 6180 Gribbling Road, Howe said. They arrived to find a 4,000-square-foot goat and pig shed well-involved.

Crews doused the fire and found that two goats had survived, but a pig had succumbed to that fire, which caused $7,000 in losses.

Derlacki said later the extent of damage left too little evidence to determine the exact cause of that fire, though it could have been an electrical failure or a heat lamp too close to combustibles.

Derlacki noted that working smoke alarms are the best easy way to protect your family in the event of a fire. He urged residents to make sure alarms are working, test them regularly, and to have a fire escape plan and practice it, so everyone knows what to do in the event of a fire.

Fore a free home safety consultation, including a check of your smoke alarms,  contact the Bend Fire Dept. at (541) 322-6309 or your local fire department.

Also, Derlacki reminded everyone that ashes and from wood and pellet stoves can retain heat for up to several days. They urge you to place ashes in a metal container with a tight cover and place them outside, at least three feet away from any combustible material such as decks, porches, woodpiles and outbuildings.

Ensure the ashes are cold to the touch before disposing of them further, he said -- and never put them in a cardboard box or paper bag.