Firefighters: Smoke detector saves 7 from house fire

Family says one cat died in fire

By Paul Suarez, Columbian web producer

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Four adults and three children escaped from a central Vancouver house minutes before it erupted in flames early Wednesday, officials said.

The fire was reported just after 3:30 a.m. in a single-story house at 1113 Manzanita Way.

Erica Kiesser, who lives in the house, said smoke alarms woke her last night. She went into the living room with her fiancé and saw fire in the back of the house. They woke two other adults and three children in the home and called 911.

When firefighters arrived three minutes later, they found heavy fire and smoke coming from behind the house and the inside engulfed in flames, said Kevin Stromberg, Vancouver Fire Department spokesman.

“We’re talking three minutes from an exterior fire to a fully-involved interior fire,” Stromberg said. “That shows how fast the fire moves and how important smoke alarms are.”

About 16 firefighters set up an aggressive attack and knocked out the fire behind the house. They then entered the house and started fighting the fire inside, Stromberg said.

It was under control in 13 minutes.

A Vancouver fire marshal investigated and determined the fire’s origin was a charcoal grill on a deck behind the house, Stromberg said. A resident said they had a barbecue Tuesday night and left lighter fluid under the grill. The grill and lighter fluid caught the deck on fire and the fire spread to the house, Stromberg said.

The fire marshal estimates the fire caused $125,000 in damage to the structure and $40,000 to the contents of the home.

“It was a complete loss,” Stromberg said.

Firefighters say a man in the house changed the batteries in the smoke detectors two weeks ago. The family also had a fire escape plan and renter’s insurance.

Kiesser, her fiancé, and his brother, who also lives in the house, returned later in the morning to assess damage and make phone calls. The family lost one of two cats in the fire, Kiesser said.

The family declined assistance from the American Red Cross and is staying with nearby relatives.

The house is owned by Manzanita Enterprises, according to county property records.