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Second major, challenging NW Bend house fire in two days causes $1.5 million damage; firefighter injured in fall

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – A three-story northwest Bend home undergoing extensive remodeling sustained at least $1.5 million in damage from a challenging fire early Wednesday morning that was traced to an all-too-familiar cause: Oily rags used in staining work that were not put in a bucket of water and spontaneously combusted. A firefighter was injured in a fall and taken to the hospital.

It was the second straight morning Bend Fire & Rescue crews responded to a large, stubborn fire that caused extensive damage to a northwest Bend home.  

Wednesday’s fire in the 61000 block of West Ridge Avenue occurred at a home unoccupied for remodeling, eight residents escaped Tuesday’s blaze that destroyed a 104-year-old home in the 1900 block of Northwest Hill Street, when one awakened to smell smoke.

That home also had been extensively remodeled several times, leaving void spaces that vexed firefighter efforts. And it, too, had a common cause: Cigarettes disposed of in a combustible container on the front deck.

Firefighters were dispatched around 4:45 a.m. Wednesday to the fire at a home in the 61000 block of West Ridge Avenue. Deputy Fire Marshal Dan Derlacki said neighbors called in to say the back of a house was on fire. Crews arrived to find a large three-story house, with fire burning on all three floors, he said.

While the main part of the fire was stopped within a half-hour, Derlacki said it took another 3 ½ hours to fully contain the fire, which burning in the attic and many concealed roof and wall spaces.

The house was unoccupied, as it was undergoing extensive renovations.

"It was a super-difficult fire" to fight, Derlacki said, noting that the house is nearly four stories tall, which made for a challenge for Bend Fire's ladder trucks.

"We have ladders on our ladder truck that are a 35-foot extension ladder," he said, "but even with those, it would have been really hard to get to the roof line."

The fire did not threaten any nearby structures, but its challenging nature resulted in calling up crews from the Alfalfa, Cloverdale and Sunriver fire departments. Redmond Fire & Rescue, meanwhile, sent crews to Bend to help handle other medical calls in town.

A total of seven fire engines, two ladder trucks, two ambulances and several command staff made for a total of 40 personnel on scene, Derlacki said.

The home had a value of about $2 million, with estimated losses of at least $1.5 million. Derlacki said the homeowners’ and contractors’ insurance companies were contacted and will work to rebuild the home.

A Bend Fire & Rescue employee was injured in a fall in the home during firefighting efforts. Derlacki said the employee sustained non-life-threatening injuries and was treated at St. Charles Bend and released to recover at home.

As for the cause, Derlacki said a contractor was staining second-floor areas and forgot to add water to the plastic five-gallon bucket of used oily rags before leaving on Tuesday.

Several neighbors reported smelling smoke in the area several hours before smoke was seen coming from the home.

"Bend Fire & Rescue reminds everyone that oily rags can start a fire if not properly disposed of," Derlacki advised in a news release.

The most common type of spontaneous combustion fires is those caused by improperly disposed of oil and stain-soaked rags. Spontaneous combustion of oily rags occurs when rag or cloth is slowly heated to its ignition point through oxidation. A substance will begin to release heat as it oxidizes.

If this heat has no way to escape, like in a pile, the temperature will raise to a level high enough to ignite the oil and ignite the rag or cloth. The fire from this can spread quickly to other combustibles and cause a great deal of damage to your home or property. 

To properly and safely dispose of oily rags, Bend Fire & Rescue recommends the following steps:

  1. Use a container with a tight-fitting lid. A metal can is preferable, but a plastic can or zip-lock bag can work, if nothing else is available. 
  2. Place soiled and used rags inside and then fill the rest the way with water, seal the top and do not open it. This will prevent the oils from oxidizing, and thus keeping the rags from heating up and igniting. 
  3. Contact your local garbage disposal company for their policy on disposal of the can and contents.  Some companies will permit disposal in regular household trash.
Article Topic Follows: Fire

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Barney Lerten

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