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Smoker's carelessness blamed for $60,000 NE Bend garage fire

Investigators say ashtray left on sofa in garage

BEND, Ore. - Improperly disposed of ashes from a marijuana pipe likely sparked a garage fire early Saturday that caused $60,000 damage to a northeast Bend home, fire investigators said.

Firefighters responded to the garage fire around 2:25 a.m. at a home in the 20700 block of Russell Drive, said Deputy Fire Marshal Dan Derlacki.

Arriving crews found a fire in the attached garage had burned through the garage door and was spreading to the rest of the house, Derlacki said. Firefighters quickly knocked down and stopped the blaze, he added.

The occupants had evacuated safely, thanks to working smoke alarms in the house, Derlacki said.

The fire began in and was kept in the garage by a firewall separating from the house, the fire official said in a news release.

“The door from the garage held the fire back like it’s designed to and kept the spread of fire and smoke inside the house to a minimum,” Derlacki wrote, noting that such firewalls and doors can prevent thousands of dollars in damage and protect residents’ safety.

“In this house, the wall and door did exactly what they were designed to do and kept the fire out of the house and allowed everyone to escape safely,” Derlacki said, noting only minor smoke damage to the home itself.

Losses were estimated at $50,000 to the building and $10,000 to the contents.

Derlacki said the fire likely was caused by improper disposal of smoking materials in the garage.

Ash from a marijuana pipe reportedly was emptied into an ashtray left on a couch located in the garage a few hours prior to the fire, he said.

“As with all types of smoking materials, ensuring the ash is put into a non-combustible container after use and ensuring the container is away from other combustibles or furniture is a simple way to prevent these types of fires,” Derlacki wrote, pointing for more information to www.bendoregon.gov/cigarettesafety.

Since June 21, Bend firefighters have responded to at least three structure fires and eight brushfires linked to improperly disposed of smoking materials, Derlacki said.

Both cigarette butts and marijuana smoking materials have attributed to these fires. The total damage for these fires includes the loss or damage to eight homes, two RVs, two vehicles and numerous out buildings. Total losses are nearly $500,000, with most of the damage coming in a 24-hour span June 21-22.

Structure fires at SE Miller Avenue, NW Awbrey Road and Saturday’s fire on Russell Drive, as well as the many bark and brush fires highlight the need to be safe with smoking materials after your done with them, he explained.

Two common causes are seen in all of these fires: improper disposal of ashes/butts and discarding cigarette butts onto the ground. Both types can lead to the still hot embers in the ash coming in contact with combustible materials ranging from bark dust to other cigarette butts.

Here are a few basic safety reminders for smoking materials that can prevent future fires:

-       Never dispose of cigarette butts onto the ground. Find a non-combustible container to dispose of them into. Ensure the butt is completely out, cold to the touch, before putting them into a trash can or with other butts.

-       Always put ash into a non-combustible container such as an ash tray or coffee can, preferably with a tight fitting lid like you would do with ash from a wood stove.

-       Regularly empty the container to prevent the buildup ash or butts that can be ignited later on.

-       Keep cigarette containers away from combustible materials such as furniture or wood decks. If the container does catch fire, we want it to burn itself out and not spread to other items.

-       More information can be found at www.bendoregon.gov/cigarettesafety


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