Bend FD: Candle sparked Tumalo house fire

Several cats perished; losses put at $300,000

Fire damages Tumalo-area home

TUMALO, Ore. - Fire tore through a nearly century-old home off Gerking Market Road in the Tumalo area Sunday afternoon, and while no people were hurt,  its contents were destroyed and several pet cats perished, including a bobcat, officials said.

On Monday Bend Deputy Fire Marshal Cindy Kettering said they'd found the cause: a candle left burning, unattended, in the living room.

The fire was reported by the homeowner, Jack Billings, when he returned home from work shortly after 3 p.m., and the first crews on scene confirmed that it was engulfing the back of the two-story home at 65100 Gerking Market Road, north of Highway 20.

No people were injured, but several cats, including a bobcat, were killed in the fire, said Battalion Chief Bob Madden.

A large barn/shop building and other buildings close to the home were threatened, Madden said, but firefighters using water from an irrigation pond were able to protect the other buildings.

"It was moving really fast," said Madden. "It's all wood, interior and exterior. There's a ton of wood inside, so it was a very large fuel load, so the fire was moving very rapidly."

"Windows were broken -- a lot of fire was coming out," Madden said at the scene. "The fire was through the roof. It's a large, spread-out house, so we aggressively attacked the fire from the unburned side and protected the rest of the house."

Bend Fire and Rescue issued a paid-personnel callback and called in a water tender from Cloverdale to assist; Sunriver and Redmond crews also were called in to help cover the fire district, Madden said.

Crews confined the fire to the rear of the home, but the contents were destroyed by fire, heat and smoke, Madden said.

Losses were estimated at $200,000 to the building, which was insured, and $100,000 to the contents.

Deschutes County property tax records indicated the three-bedroom 2,600-square-foot home was built in 1915.

"The Bend Fire Department would like to remind the community to never leave candles burning unattended," Kettering said in Monday's news release.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, she said, an estimated 15,260 home fires each year in the United States are caused by candles - and over half of those are because the candle is too close to combustible materials.  

"As we approach the peak month for fires caused by candles -- December -- consider using alternatives such as battery-operated candles that produce a soft glow and flicker without the fire danger," Kettering wrote. "If you do use candles, make sure you extinguish them before leaving the house, taking a nap or retiring for the night."

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