Family escapes, dog saved in two fires

House fires in West Hazel Dell, Northwest neighborhoods

By Paul Suarez, Columbian web producer

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On the warmest day of the year, firefighters knocked out two house fires within about four hours Thursday. In one house, a family with two children escaped. In the other, Fire District 5 and Vancouver firefighters coaxed a dog from a second story room when no one was home.

The first fire was at 9:25 a.m. at 6914 N.W. Anderson Ave., several blocks west of Hazel Dell Elementary School in Fire District 6’s service area.

Homeowner Marnie Pharis-Wambold said she heard a loud noise immediately before the fire. Soon after, her mother, Patricia Pharis, who also lives in the home, said she saw smoke.

The two grabbed Wambold’s children, Noah, 6, and Aubrie, 2, left the home and called 911.

“It just happened so fast,” Pharis-Wambold said.”It was just bizarre.”

Firefighters from Clark County Fire District 6 and the Vancouver Fire Department found heavy smoke in the basement. Brown smoke, described as pressurized, continued to build. The pressure and heat broke at least one basement window.

The fire was declared under control at 9:50 a.m.

Pharis-Wambold and her family watched firefighters from a home across the street. She said she hoped damage to the home was minimal. She and her husband, Rod Wambold, just had the home painted, repaired the insulation and replaced the windows in September. They have lived in the home since 2005. It was built in 1916.

“It’s sad we’ve put a lot of work into this home,” Pharis-Wambold said. “I love this house.”

As she watched from her vantage point, firefighters removed furniture and items from the home and stacked them in the yard.

Later in the day, the Clark County Fire Marshal’s Office determined the fire started in the home’s electrical panel in the basement, said Dawn Johnson, spokeswoman for Fire District 6.

The fire spread to one room on the main floor but the entire home had smoke damage, she said.

Three District 6 engines and a rescue rig, along with one engine and one ladder truck from Vancouver were on the scene. In all, about 17 firefighters worked the fire.

The family will be temporarily displaced because of the fire but won’t need assistance from the Red Cross, Johnson said.

Cherry Street fire

The second fire happened several hours later at 6407 N.W. Cherry St. in the Northwest neighborhood, in the extreme northwest corner of the Vancouver city limits.

Engine 62 with Fire District 6 was the first rig on scene at 2:17 p.m., about six minutes after the fire was reported, said Kevin Stromberg, a Vancouver fire spokesman.

The fire was reported by two neighbors, one an off-duty Portland firefighter, who noticed smoke and flames coming from the electric meter box on the split-level home and called the fire department at 2:11 p.m.

Firefighters arrived to find a working electrical fire, with flames damaging the siding of the garage. No one was home except the dog, who was rescued. Firefighters waited for Clark Public Utilities to disconnect the power, then attacked the fire from inside and outside the garage. It was quickly brought under control.

The fire burned the outside of the home and worked its way up a stud space to a second floor bedroom but was stopped before it got to the attic, Stromberg said. That was a big save by firefighters and the neighbors who reported the fire early, he said.

A mattress and some clothing were damaged in the blaze. There was light smoke in the rest of the home.

The homeowners are Jim and Susan Maxwell, according to county property records.

The home is livable except for the area that was burned in the bedroom, Stromberg said.

“All in all, the contents of the home fared very well,” he said.

A Vancouver fire marshal was on scene investigating the cause and determining the damage estimate.