Smoke detector wakes Vancouver woman to fire

She, grandchild escape safely; man puts blaze out

By John Branton, Columbian Staff Reporter

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Not only did a smoke detector save the lives of a grandmother and her grandchild, firefighters say, but it was a detector that Vancouver firefighters had installed free in October.

At 12:10 a.m. Wednesday, firefighters were called to 3310 Xavier Ave., near Fruit Valley Park, said Capt. Dave James with the Vancouver Fire Department.

A woman had been sleeping with her baby grandchild with the bedroom’s door closed.

“She had no idea there was a fire until she heard the alarm and opened the bedroom door,” James said. “The whole house was filled with smoke.”

The grandmother and baby went outside unhurt and she called 911.

Before firefighters arrived, James said, the baby’s father arrived home, grabbed a garden hose and went inside. When he realized he couldn’t breathe, he went back out and inside again, this time staying below the smoke line -- and put the fire out. It had started in some wiring in a kitchen wall, James said.

The man’s going inside without proper equipment and when no one was in danger concerned firefighters, who know he might have been overcome by smoke and killed, James said.

“It’s not really worth the risk to your life” to save property, James said.

As it happened, the father wasn’t burned and declined medical treatment, James said.

In the end, the house remained liveable.

Two-thirds of residential fire deaths occur in homes without working smoke alarms, James said.

Smoke alarms should be placed on every level of a home and in each bedroom. People with money problems can have a free smoke detector alarm installed by calling 360-487-7212.

John Branton: 360-735-4513 or john.branton@columbian.com.