Wednesday, August 29, 2012/lk
A giant cloud of billowing, black smoke sent residents to their phones on Monday afternoon as fire blazed through two structures and two vehicles at 3099 Eliot Road.
The West Side Fire Department and crews from Hood River and Odell were called to the scene where a fire, which appeared to start between a garage and a C-Class motor home, engulfed each and then spread to a car and modular home in just moments. The exact cause of the blaze is still being investigated, according to West Side Fire Marshall Jim Trammel.
The fire report came in at 1:56 p.m. with West Side Fire Chief Chris Nickelsen on scene at 1:56; he lives on an orchard adjacent to the property.
Trammel confirmed one resident of the home, teenager Courtney Mason, was in the home when the blaze took hold.
“She said she smelled smoke and went around the house to look but didn’t see anything. After returning inside, she began to see smoke, at which point she ran outside and called 9-1-1,” said Trammel.
Mason was able to escape to safety outside, along with two family dogs and a hamster. The teen reported to fire officials during the event that she did not witness the fire jumping to the home’s attic.
The garage structure and motor home are a total loss, along with a Volkswagen Rabbit. The fire also spread into the modular home, traveling in along an air space under the roof cap. The damage to the modular home is primarily to the roof, with water and smoke damage to the interior.
“We also had the fire spread into the grass and brush surrounding the home so we were fighting that as well,” said Trammel. “This was a very hot fire.”
One of the additional challenges came when the natural gas meter on the property failed due to the high heat.
“We could see that the gas was burning at the meter, which is actually a good sign; meaning it wasn’t escaping somewhere unknown,” said Trammel. “We were able to get in there and shut down the line before the gas company arrived.
“The fire in the modular home’s attic gave us the most trouble. It was constructed out of lightweight material that burns rapidly. The way they are constructed — bolting two halves together — leaves a void space that runs the entire ridge cap. The fire was hidden in there. We had to rip the roof cap off, cutting holes in end of trailer and on the roof itself to get to it,” Trammel said.
“The blaze had a pretty good head start on us before we got there,” he said, but the crews were in full force within minutes of the 9-1-1 call.
Three engines, one tender, one ambulance and one salvage vehicle supported the 23 firefighters who arrived at the three-bedroom home to fight the fire. Seventeen of the crew are volunteers. Crews also cordoned off the area and redirected traffic until the area was secured.
Laurie Mason is listed as the homeowner. She was not on the premises when the blaze occurred. Courtney was alone at the time.
West Side Fire Chaplain David Hancock comforted the teen and helped coordinate with the Red Cross for emergency “incidentals” funding assistance. The family was reportedly able to seek temporary housing with extended family.
Fire crews completed cleanup around 6 p.m. at the site, but will continue to monitor the area for any possible flare-ups. Trammel noted that the fire investigation is continuing pending the arrival of State Farm Homeowners Insurance representatives.
On Tuesday morning, neighbors called in to report a possible reignition of the fire at the site, after seeing additional smoke. Crews were readying to respond when, upon arrival, the first firefighter on the scene confirmed it was residual smoke from the previous day’s fire and crews were told to stand down.