An early-morning garage fire broke out Monday at a home just north of Bend and began spreading to the rest of the home, but firefighters were able to quickly knock it down and the residents escaped unharmed, officials said. Investigators later traced the fire’s cause to a plastic container of cigarette butts on the home’s back deck.
Crews were called around 3:15 a.m. to the home owned by Robert Gallagher at 63700 Crooked Rocks Road, north of Cooley Road and east of Highway 20. They arrived to find the garage portion of the home fully ablaze, said Bend fire Capt. Jeff Blake.
Neighbors reported hearing explosions and shouts for help coming from the home -- and fortunately, the fire's crackling and popping sounds awakened the residents, said Deputy Fire Marshal Dan Derlacki.
Blake said firefighters were able to stop the fire’s spread and protect part of the living area, as well as nearby structures – also rescuing a cat from a bedroom in the house.
Two adults, a dog and a cat made it out safely. The home had smoke alarms, but that did not wake the residents, Derlacki said. He noted the fire was primarily in the garage and attic, "so any smoke would have been away from the detectors."
The home sustained extensive smoke and fire damage, he said, but some contents were saved. Losses were estimated at $150,000 to the home and $20,000 worth of contents.
Derlacki later said an investigation determined that smokers at the home had been disposing of cigarette butts in a plastic container on the back deck.
The container ignited, he said, and the flames quickly spread to the deck and into the garage through an open door.
A large amount of combustibles in the garage – along with a cylinder of acetylene gas – allowed the fire to spread quickly into the attic space, Derlacki said, adding that the roof collapsed over the garage, living room and kitchen.
The American Red Cross was called in to assist the displaced family with emergency needs.
Redmond firefighters also responded with a water tender, but that was canceled en route, Blake said, adding that Deschutes County sheriff’s deputies also assisted at the scene.
Derlacki reminded smokers to “put safety first.”
“Always use a non-combustible container to dispose of cigarette butts and matches, and place the container on a non-combustible surface, such as dirt or concrete,” the fire official said. “Place sand or water inside the container to prevent the contents from igniting.”