Cigarette caused three-alarm condominium fire, $1 million damage

By Patty Hastings, Columbian breaking news reporter

Published:

Updated: July 8, 2013, 8:26 PM

 

An improperly discarded cigarette sparked a three-alarm fire that damaged nine One Lake Place condominiums and caused $1 million in damage, said Vancouver Fire Marshal Heidi Scarpelli.

Sixteen adults and children were displaced by the blaze that burned through the roof of the three-story complex the evening of July 2 at 5264 N.E. 121st Ave. in Orchards. Investigators determined that the fire was unintentional. A resident was smoking on a second-floor patio and put the cigarette into a planter, which contained a potting soil made of wood byproducts, Scarpelli said.

Instead of extinguishing the fire, the soil allows it to smolder, ultimately igniting nearby combustible materials. It’s very similar to a bark dust fire, Scarpelli said.

She said smokers should put out cigarettes in a metal container filled with sand or water. “That’s really the safest way to discard of a cigarette.”

At full strength, 45 firefighters responded to the fire at the “F” building that started just after 8 p.m. They battled the blaze until 1 a.m. the next morning, but crews stayed on scene until 6:30 a.m. to make sure that the fire stayed out, said Vancouver Capt. Scott Willis.

No one has been cited in the fire, officials said.