BEND, Ore. -

Smoke alarms awakened a family of seven in a burning northeast Bend home early Friday morning, allowing them to escape unhurt from a fire that began in the garage and caused $75,000 damage, officials said.

Fire crews responded to a reported home fire at 3105 NE Purcell Boulevard, near Butler Market Road, around 2:40 a.m., said Deputy Fire Marshal Dan Derlacki.

The seven occupants awoke to the smoke alarms and found the garage on fire, so all quickly evacuated and called 911.

The first crews to arrive found the garage engulfed in flames, Derlacki said. They knocked the fire down quickly, but it took several hours to remove all the debris from the garage and ensure there were no hot spots.

Derlacki said the fire most likely was caused by failure of an extension cord powering a freezer in the garage. That caused combustibles near the cord to ignite and start the fire.

Losses were estimated at $50,000 to the home owned by Manuel and Molly Milby and $25,000 to the contents.

"The fire was contained mostly to the garage, with some smoke in the house," Derlacki told NewsChannel 21 on the scene.

The American Red Cross said it assisted the family of three adults, four children and four pets, providing lodging, blankets, comfort kids, food, clothes and information about other services.

The fire official pointed to two key lessons from the fire:

“Working smoke alarms save lives,” Derlacki wrote. “In this case, it was seven lives.” He urged all residents to check smoke alarms regularly, to ensure they are working. Batteries may need to be replaced if they are not long-life lithium types. Also, he said, old smoke alarms lose their sensitivity over time. Most manufacturers suggest you replace smoke alarms after 10 years of use.

http://www.bendoregon.gov/index.aspx?page=322 has more information on smoke alarms.

Secondly, large appliances like refrigerators and freezers should be plugged directly into outlets whenever possible. Such appliances draw large amounts of power to cool the food inside, and using extension cords allow for more chance of electrical failures that can spark fires. If you use a cord, make sure it is the proper gauge, he said, and use a surge protector.

http://www.bendoregon.gov/index.aspx?page=1136 provides more information pertaining to electrical safety.

More than a dozen firefighters were called in. Bend police and public works crews assisted at the scene, Derlacki said.