Fire destroys home in Camas (with video)

Homeowner says it was caused by gas can that got knocked over

By Emily Gillespie, Columbian breaking news reporter

Published:

Updated: April 30, 2013, 2:13 PM

 
photoFire licks out from the daylight basement of a home on Northwest Sierra Drive in Camas. The fire is believed to have started on the deck.
photoA Camas firefighter prepares to extinguish flames that destroyed a home on Northwest Sierra Drive in Camas on Tuesday.

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CAMAS — Alan Murray, 66, was sitting at his computer in the upstairs of his home in the Summit Oaks subdivision Tuesday afternoon when he heard his 19-year-old son yell something about a fire.

“He said he was moving some stuff on the porch and knocked over a gas can and it caught on fire,” Murray said. As he headed downstairs, Murray was surprised to be met with large flames on the deck that were quickly spreading.

The two hurried out of the house and immediately called 911, but by the time Camas-Washougal firefighters arrived, flames had almost engulfed the two-story, six-bedroom house.

“I thought they could contain it but it just went up like crazy,” Murray said. “Even if I would have had a hose, I couldn’t have done anything.”

The fire was reported at 12:40 p.m. Camas-Washougal Fire Chief Nick Swinhart said arriving firefighters used a defensive attack on the blaze — instead of trying to enter the burning house, they used hoses to spray water from the outside.

“We just dump a lot of water on it until we can get it out,” he said. “This fire just got too much of a head start on us.”

Murray looked on as about 25 firefighters tried to put out the blaze. Crews from Vancouver Fire Department and East County Fire & Rescue also fought the flames.

“A lot of memories are going up in flames,” Murray said, as he stood across the street, watching plumes of black smoke billow from his home.

The house at 3627 N.W. Sierra Drive was valued at $309,365, according to the county. It is insured, but the things inside that Murray was worried about are items that couldn’t be replaced with money: family pictures, a wedding album and a collection of baseball cards and comic books.

“I didn’t stop to get anything,” he said. “I’ll probably cry later; I just want to see what’s left inside.”

Using several hoses and a water cannon, firefighters sprayed the sides of the house, using a shield of water to protect neighboring residences. Houses next door stand about 10 feet away from the flame-engulfed residence.

“Sometimes it’s a helpless feeling for us too, but it’s all we can do,” Swinhart said.

Emily Gillespie: 360-735-4522; http://twitter.com/col_cops; emily.gillespie@columbian.com.

View a video of the house fire on The Columbian's YouTube Channel.