BEND, OR -- Fire officials say a blaze that heavily damaged a home in Deschutes River Woods on Friday was caused by a common mistake. Bend Fire Battalion Chief Dave Howe says the homeowner thought he did everything right when he cleaned ashes out of a fireplace, last week, "They put the ashes in a container, they were thinking they were dead-out and cold. They left them there for two to three days in the metal bucket. But, the problem is that ashes can hold heat for up to a week." Investigators believe when the man transferred the ashes to a garbage can, the day before the fire, it allowed just enough oxygen in the pile to re-ignite. The fire caused about $200,000 in damage.
Howe says the elderly couple, both in their 90s, escaped unscathed, thanks to working smoke detectors. "These ashes will burn your house down, if you’re not really, really careful with them." He tells KBND News, "They need to be put in a metal bucket, preferably filled with water. And then, do not put that metal bucket on anything that can burn, like a wood deck or steps. You want to put it on concrete outside the house, or on gravel." And, Howe says, don't expect them to cool quickly, "Just leave it out there for a week or two, just to be sure, because these ashes are so sneaky. And, every single year we have multiple fires caused by ashes that people thought were cold and they weren’t cold."