Cigarettes blamed for pair of house fires

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The fire that destroyed several apartments last week in Vancouver's Ogden neighborhood, as well as a Rose Village fire that left a Vancouver man badly burned on Friday, were caused by cigarette smokers' carelessness, fire investigators have concluded.

A 20-year-old man suffered burns on almost half of his body after lighting a cigarette near gasoline vapors in a garage at 3505 S St., Vancouver Fire Marshal Heidi Scarpelli said. The fire was reported at 2:42 a.m. Friday.

The man was taken to the burn center at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland. The other man suffered burns on his hand and was treated at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center.

The fire caused $78,000 in damages to the garage and house and $40,000 in damages to valuables in the house and garage. A Chevrolet Suburban and two motor scooters sustained an additional $25,000 in damages, she said.

The fire, which was ruled an accident, was caused by improper use of smoking materials near flammable liquids, Scarpelli said. No citations were issued.

Scarpelli said the Thursday morning apartment fire at Royal Crest Town Homes, 2802 N.E. 86th Ave., was also caused by a smoker's carelessness. The fire was reported shortly after 7 a.m. Thursday.

Five units in the complex were damaged by the fire, which caused an estimated $655,000 in structural damage and resulted in $421,000 in lost valuables.

Scarpelli said that smoking is the leading cause of fire deaths in the United States.

"Smoking fires are especially dangerous because victims are closer to the source of the fire," she said.

Scarpelli said that smokers should use ashtrays or put cigarettes out in water or sand. She also advised that they smoke outside and avoid smoking around flammable liquids.

"These fires aren't just breaking out," she said. "These are preventable fires."