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Garage fire spreads, heavily damages DRW home

By Nina Mehlhaf
Published On: Jan 30 2013 03:53:03 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 26 2013 12:56:35 AM CST

NewsChannel 21's Nina Mehlhaf talked with a neighbor who heard a boom, saw smoke, then flames and called 911, making sure residents were out of a home as a garage fire spread.

BEND, Ore. -

A fierce garage fire in Deschutes River Woods quickly spread to the attached home Friday night, causing an estimated $250,000 damage, but quick action by neighbors helped make sure the residents got out safely, officials and neighbors said.

Bend firefighters were called to 19483 Apache Road south of Bend around 7 p.m., said fire Capt. Scott Wyman. They arrived to find the attached garage fully ablaze and the fire spreading to the home and attic space, he said.

Neighbors told NewsChannel 21 the two people who rent the home were home at the time, but got out safely. Fire officials identified them as Casey Bergum and Jaqueline Dodd-Perry, and said the home was owned by Don Aasland.

Wyman said the fire’s forward progress was stopped shortly after the first of about 16 firefighters arrived, and the fire was out in less than a half-hour, but extensive overhaul was required.

Neighbors said the renters worked on cars a lot, and a pickup truck was sitting on blocks in the driveway when the fire broke out. The neighbors used a rope tow to prevent further damage and get it out of the way for firefighters.

Neighbor Christina Swift said she was in her house "playing hide and seek with the kids, and I heard a loud boom -- it kind of shook the house."

"I actually thought maybe one of the kids fell," she said. "And when I realized that they were fine, I saw smoke out the window from the neighbor's house, and then came out front, saw flames, called 911.

"There was something in the yard that was on fire just a second ago," Swift said. "There was a truck in their driveway that caught on fire as well. That was pretty scary. I almost left with the kids, because I thought it was going to blow up."

While the garage was the most heavily damaged, firefighters were removing burning items from the living room area well after knocking down the flames.

By late Friday night, the most likely cause of the fire had been determined -- "combustibles being left too close to a portable propane heater in the garage," said Deputy Fire Marshal Dan Derlacki.

Derlacki said the residents were working on a car in the garage and left materials too close to the front of the heater, which was on. The combustibles ignited and spread to the rest of the garage, he said.

"The Bend Fire Department reminds everyone to provide plenty of space around heating devices," Derlacki wrote.

"It is recommended that combustibles (paper, wood, fabrics, furniture, etc.) should be at least three feet away from heating devices to prevent fires like this one," the fire official said.

Wyman said fortunately, the residents had renters insurance, “coverage that we highly recommend.” Still, he said, they were displaced and lost nearly all of their belongings.

The structural loss was estimated at $125,000, or about half home’s value, and the contents were called a total loss, at another $125,000. The home is salvageable, firefighters said, but it sustained severe damage.

Bend Fire issued a personnel callback to make sure stations were staffed while the firefighters battled the blaze. A Redmond ambulance and Sunriver engine crew were called in on mutual aid to help staff the stations and respond to several medical calls on a busy Friday night.

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