Fire damages east county house, displaces family

By Dave Kern, Columbian assistant metro editor

Published:

Updated: March 4, 2012, 9:38 PM

 
photoFirefighter Kelby Kiedrowski of East County Fire & Rescue works to knock down a Sunday afternoon fire at 23702 N.E. 54th Street in Vancouver. The blaze caused more than $150,000 in damage.

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Fire caused more than $150,000 in damage to the residence of Jim and Bobbiejean Van Horn at 23702 N.E. 54th St. on Sunday afternoon.

Eighteen firefighters from three departments had the fire knocked down within 10 minutes of arriving, said Chief Scott Koehler of East County Fire & Rescue.

The family was at church when the fire broke out at 1:18 p.m.

A county fire marshal said the fire was accidental and resulted from an “unspecified electrical failure.” She said an electric heater that was plugged into an extension cord caused the fire.

Vancouver and Camas firefighters also responded.

The house is owned by John and Lisa Lenz, who live 100 yards away. John sprinted to the house after hearing fire sirens.

Lenz heaped praised on the professionalism of the firefighters.

“I thought it was magnificent,” he said of the response.

The fire marshal said the fire was mostly contained to the front three rooms but that there was smoke and heat damage throughout the 1,116-square-foot house.

Lenz and the fire marshal agreed that closed doors kept the fire from spreading. Damage was estimated at $85,000 to the house and $68,000 to contents.

The fire marshal also noted that smoke alarms were not functioning and at least one smoke detector did not have a battery installed.

She also cautioned to never plug an extension cord into a space heater.

John Lenz said he has fire insurance but he believed the Van Horns did not have renters’ insurance for the contents.

The Van Horns, an adult son, and two grandchildren were displaced by the fire. They were being helped by family members and their church on Sunday.