Pendleton-area rancher Tanner Hawkins and his family escaped a fire early Wednesday that damaged their home.
“Fire alarms woke us up,” Hawkins said.
He, his wife Polly, and their two sons all got out unharmed, he said, but he ran back inside and closed some doors to try and contain the fire as much as possible. Suzie Reitz with the East Umatilla County Rural Fire Protection District reported Hawkins’ actions deprived the fire of oxygen, which significantly slowed the growth of the blaze.
“This enabled the firefighters to save the house,” she stated in an email.
The Helix Rural Fire Protection District sent a crew of three at 6:45 a.m. to the fire at the home about 10 miles north of Pendleton on Highway 37, according to Reitz. East Umatilla responded to assist with five firefighters and Athena fire sent a crew of four.
The fire departments at Pendleton and the Umatilla Indian Reservation were on stand-by in case the fire got out of hand, Reitz reported, and the Oregon State Fire Marshal assigned an investigator to find the cause of the fire.
“This was a contents fire with heat and fire damage,” she stated. “The house sustained smoke and water damage.”
Hawkins said he and his family are fortunate enough to be able to take shelter with family near the home in the meantime, and the alarms may have saved their lives. The Oregon Office of State Fire Marshal reported with daylight saving time ending Sunday, this is a good time to test smoke alarms.
The agency in a written statement encouraged residents to test smoke alarms before changing the batteries. Many smoke alarms now come with 10-year batteries and some are tamper-resistant, according to State Fire Marshal Jim Walker. He also urged replacing smoke alarms that are 10 years old or older.
For more smoke alarm and fire safety information, contact your local fire department or visit www.oregon.gov/osp/SFM.