A wood-burning stove is suspected of starting a fire that gutted the living room of a Jefferson St. house on Thursday.
Hillsboro Fire Chief Ben Steketee and a state fire marshal sifted through the burned room at 214 Jefferson St. Friday looking for clues. Steketee’s initial impressions led him to suspect the stove, but the fire marshal found an alternative explanation, he said.
“He found another possible ignition source,” Steketee said. “A wooden chest: one of the legs was sitting on an electrical wire.”
The call for Hillsboro firefighters came at 11:37 p.m. Steketee said the man living in the residence was asleep when the fire started.
“He’d put a fire in the wood stove,” Steketee said. “He was relaxing in the recliner, and he fell asleep. He was awakened by the fire.”
Firefighters aborted an initial foray into the house when they recognized the intense heat could spawn a dangerous flashover, a sudden ignition of flammable gases released by the heat in which “everything in the room is on fire, even the smoke,” Steketee said. Their assessment proved to be accurate.
“They went in, saw the situation, realized there wasn’t anything they could do about it, and exited,” Steketee said. “It was about to happen, and it did happen as they made their exit.”
Recent training firefighters received may have saved lives, Steketee said.
“We’re not a busy fire dept when it comes to structure fires,” he said. “That’s one of the things we train on, because we don’t have a lot of experience with it.”
They attacked the fire from outside, cooling the room to a point it was safe to re-enter. Metal window blinds made the task harder, and as they worked they heard ammunition exploding in the house. The fire posed a greater danger than the ammo explosions, Steketee said.
While the entire house had extensive smoke damage, firefighters kept the fire isolated to the living room.
“Everybody did a fantastic job,” Steketee said. “If you can confine it to the area of origin, that’s a successful firefight.”
The fire made the house uninhabitable, but the Red Cross got the resident a motel room he can stay in temporarily.
The state fire marshall listed the cause of the fire as “undetermined” for the time being, Steketee said.