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SE Bend apartment fire traced to cigarette in barkdust


Firefighters tackled a fire in the sawdust-filled wall of a small, older southeast Bend apartment building Thursday morning that investigators traced to a cigarette tossed in the bark dust outside, officials said.

Firefighters responded shortly before 8 a.m. to the reported fire in the interior wall of a small apartment house at 163 SE Davis Avenue, said Battalion Chief Dave Howe. They arrived to find smoke coming from the one-story apartment building that has two apartments.

Crews were able to knock down the flames quickly and opened the walls and ceiling to check for fire extension, finding the insulation was sawdust.

“This was a very old building, constructed when sawdust was readily available for use as insulation,” Howe said in a news release.

Deputy Fire Marshal Dan Derlacki said at the scene, “Most of these homes are old mill homes. The mills used to be right down near the river.

“This is where the workers would work. and as they are building their house, they’d use available materials, and they’d use sawdust in these walls as insulation,” he said. “So they’d bring it from work with them every day, and they’d fill it. So some of this is 80-, 90-year-old sawdust. It is super-dry and burns really well.”

Derlacki the cause was determined to be a cigarette disposed into bark dust along the outside wall of a covered patio.

“The covering kept the bark from getting wet,” Derlacki said, adding that the owner plans to remove the bark during repairs, replacing it with a non-combustible covering, such as gravel.

Howe noted, “Even though it is cold and snowy outside, the improper disposal of smoking materials (cigarettes etc.) can still ignite flammable materials.”

American Red Cross disaster responders were called to the scene to help the four affected people, three adults and a child. The agency said they provided resources to help meet immediate basic needs such as temporary housing, food, clothing and comfort kids with toiletry items.

Losses were estimated at $25,000 to the building, which is insured, and $5,000 to the contents of the occupants, who did not have renter’s insurance.

Howe said Bend Fire recommends renter’s insurance for your belongings, which “will save you a lot of trouble, should you have a fire. The landlord’s insurance generally only covers the building, not the contents of a rental property.”

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