PENDLETON - Frank Perkins didn't even have time to put on his shoes when he ran out of his burning house Tuesday evening.

He stood outside his home at 1650 S.W. 18th Street - just off Southwest Perkins - in a pair of blue socks, watching with neighbors as more than 10 firefighters worked to get the blaze under control.

"I was watching TV," he said. "Next thing I know my cable went out. I came down the stairs and there was a fire on the back porch."

He immediately called 9-1-1 and exited the house.

"I came out right away," he said.

Dispatch received the 9-1-1 call at 6:45 p.m.

Pendleton fire sent three engines in response to the blaze. Tribal fire also responded and arrived to help relieve firefighters after 7:30 p.m.

Perkins was the only one inside as his son, Jeff, was at work.

Jeff said he received a call saying he should head home as soon as possible. He arrived around 7:15 p.m.

While firefighters aired out the smoke from the front door and attacked with fire hoses from the roof of the garage, neighbors worked to protect the house next door at 1690 S.W. 18th St.

Jeff Kendrick, who lives at 1690 and had been golfing when the fire began, came home to find his neighbors spraying the roof with a garden hose.

He said when he drove up he was relieved to see it wasn't his house on fire.

"In one way you have a sense of relief that it's not your house but you also feel bad for your neighbors," he said.

From atop his roof, Kendrick had a vantage point on the blaze in Perkins' house. He said he saw a hole in the roof and firefighters spraying water from the inside to the outside.

"There were definitely flames coming up the top, for sure" Kendrick said.

"We saw a few flames on top," agreed Gary Graybeal, a neighbor who was helping wet Kendrick's roof.

Pendleton Fire Marshal Tyler Nokes said just before 8 p.m. the fire was mostly under control and firefighters were mopping up hot spots on the roof.

"The fire got into the attic, the roof is unstable now," Nokes said.

While battling the blaze, firefighters had to be especially careful due to the 100-degree heat outside and the 1,500-degree heat inside, Nokes said. After exiting the house, a medical officer checked firefighters' vital signs for heat stroke.

"Everybody's just getting worn out fast," Nokes said. "It doesn't take long for these guys to get exhausted quickly. ... The body's working double and triple overtime."

This morning, Nokes was just finishing his investigation. He said he believed the fire began on the back deck, where a planter box marked what he called the "origin of the fire." Nokes was unsure of exactly what caused the planter to ignite. He said it could have been cigarette butts or a breakdown of organic materials, which could have caused spontaneous combustion.

The planter quickly ignited the deck.

"It was easy for the fire to get started," Nokes said. "There's no moisture and the deck is nice, easy-to-burn material."

Nokes said wiring for two satellite dishes ran near the deck, so the flames could have caused Perkins' television signal to shut off.

From there the flames traveled into the house through vents to the attic and by melting windows and getting into the main floor.

"It funneled the heat right into the vents and into the attic," he said.

Nokes called the damage on the main floor of the house "extensive." Aside from the deck, the fire damaged the living room and kitchen.

The rest of the house also suffered smoke and water damage, Nokes said.

Perkins said he had fire insurance and, jokingly, added that all his possessions were replaceable.

He seemed a bit stunned as he watched the firefighters work Tuesday evening. He said it was difficult for him to remember where he'd seen the fire start.

Eventually, he did find something to cover his feet and by 8 p.m. was wearing a white pair of tennis shoes.

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.