Cigarette sparks duplex fire; stranger alerts residents

Multnomah County

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A stranger helped three residents make it safely out of their Goose Hollow duplex after a tossed cigarette caused a fire early Monday morning.

Shortly before 5 a.m., resident Casey Hug woke up to the sound of glass shattering.

“I was asleep when someone broke my bedroom window and started pounding on my doors,” Hug told KOIN 6 News. “Next thing you know there was smoke everywhere and I got the neighbors out.”

The stranger was on his way to work when he noticed smoke billowing from the basement of the duplex on the corner of Southwest 16th and Jefferson. According to Hug, the man woke him up before the smoke alarms even went off.

Portland Fire & Rescue crews were able to quickly get the fire under control on the first floor and roof before putting out the blaze in the walls and attic.

According to fire investigators, a cigarette butt tossed into bark dust caused the fire to start in the basement. Then, the flames traveled up the walls and into the attic.

Lt. Rich Chatman added that tossed cigarette butts account for the majority of the house fires and calls they get in the summer. If cigarette butts are disposed of improperly during the warmer season, they can smolder in the bark dust and the heat can travel underground.

Fire crews are thankful a stranger got the residents out before it was too late — and encourage others to do the same.

“If there’s a way you can help out and bang on the door, get people out and make them aware — sometimes it takes awhile for the smoke detectors to go off, sometimes it might be in a different part of the house, so if you see something and you can call 911 or help out in any way, we appreciate that,” Jessie Altig with Portland Fire said.

While Hug and his neighbors are sad they’re now temporarily displaced, he feels lucky to walk away from the burning building unharmed.

“It’s just going to be stuff that I lose, no pets or family members — just stuff,” he said.

The American Red Cross is helping Hug and his neighbors.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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