On Aug. 15, at approximately 3:16 p.m., North Lincoln Fire and Rescue responded to a reported residential fire on NE 34th St. at the Lincoln Woods Apartments.
NLFR determined the fire originated on the second floor deck of the eight-unit apartment building and was caused by improperly discarded smoking materials. Flames started on the balcony of apartment 30 and despite many residents suspecting the cause to be electrical, NLFR Chief Rob Dahlman said that was not the case.
“It was pretty clear to us that a guest of the resident placed a lit cigarette butt into a plastic container on the deck, which had other contents inside that caught fire,” Dahlman said. “It was not electrical at all.”
NLFR reported that the plastic container on the deck had a significant quantity of previously discarded cigarette butts, which ignited after the guest and the residents had left the apartment that afternoon.
Prior to NLFR crews arriving to the scene, Lincoln Woods Apartments maintenance man Joel Fuentz was the first to notice the smoke and helped douse the flames with a garden hose, according to complex manager John Hoschouer. The fire was held in check using first aid fire extinguishers and the garden hose.
Without those efforts, NLFR said the fire could have easily entered the attic area causing significant damage. The actual fire damage was primarily to the exterior of the building.
“When I arrived to the apartment with a police officer, I had to kick down the locked door,” Hoschouer said. “We saw that the fire was along the wall, heading into the attic, but it never got through the roof.”
Renters Trish Williams and husband Mike Blacketer were inside the building when it caught fire and quickly evacuated, along with the rest of the building occupants.
“I was inside just making my lunch and my husband came in and said we’ve got to go,” Williams said. “I grabbed my phone and ran out as fast as I could.”
No injuries to civilians or firefighters occurred. Early loss values are estimated to be $25,000 to the contents of the apartment and its immediate neighboring unit. Structural damage is also at an estimated $25,000.
The first engine company on scene was a Depoe Bay Fire Department unit because NLFR was in the Gleneden Beach area. The units were reversed in their locations due to cooperative efforts between the two fire districts associated with both agencies acquiring new Self Contained Breathing Apparatus. Even with the exchange of locations, fire operations were as smooth as if all units had been in their normally assigned locations.
LCPD units assisted the operation by evacuating occupants in units adjacent to the fire unit, and later, providing area security to allow firefighters a safe and clear work area for the fire combat operations.
“NLFR and LCPD did an excellent job,” Hoschouer said. “They responded very quickly and I was really impressed with how thorough they were.”
Hoschouer also credits the quick work of his maintenance man Fuentz, who he said was the first person to spring into action.
“He’s just a hard working guy who never takes credit for anything,” Hoschouer said.
The American Red Cross offered displaced residents in the effected apartments, like Williams and Blacketer, temporary housing for the time being. However, the renters are now facing a feeling of uncertainty.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do, we don’t have renter’s insurance,” Williams said. “It just sucks.”