BATTLE GROUND — A midafternoon fire that started in the garage of a Battle Ground home on Monday forced a mother and her three children out in the light rain and sent up a column of smoke visible for a couple of miles.
No one was reported injured.
Crews with Clark County Fire & Rescue and Fire District 3 were called at 3:20 p.m. to a newer two-story house at 319 S.E. 20th Ave. on a dead-end road about a mile east of the old downtown area along Main Street.
The first crews arrived within six minutes and reported heavy flames in the garage that were burning up to the second floor, said acting commander, Capt. David Greenwood.
Officers called heavy water tankers, a ladder truck and other units to the house, which is a quarter-mile downhill on the narrow paved road.
The fire trucks blocked the road, trapping a school bus with 15 to 20 students on board that had been heading out on 20th, said Mike Ciraulo, training chief with CCFR and former Battle Ground mayor.
As a result, officials escorted the children on foot past the trucks and burning house, at a safe distance.
“They loved it,” Ciraulo said. “They wanted my autograph as (former) mayor.”
The children then climbed onto another bus up by the main road, and it took them home.
Fire officials said they were told a teen ran to the home and warned the family the garage was in flames.
Scott Hieb arrived at his still-smoking home later and said his wife, three children and dog had been inside.
“The alarm went off, she looked in the garage and they got out,” Hieb said. “And things started exploding — gas tanks started exploding.”
In the end, the fire had gutted the garage and damaged the upstairs; but it appeared that firefighters saved about half of the house.
Curtis Eavenson, a Clark County deputy fire marshal, said the fire was caused by an electric problem involving a power strip and battery chargers for power tools.
"I don’t know exactly which one it was (that failed)," he said.
The fire caused an estimated $75,000 in damage to the structure and $25,000 to contents, he said.