Battery charger blamed for Aug. 3 house fire

By Emily Gillespie, Columbian Breaking News Reporter

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A fire that destroyed one house and heavily damaged another was caused by a malfunction in a car battery charger, according to fire investigators.

Firefighters rushed to a house at 1517 East Reserve St. at about 4:40 p.m. on Aug. 3, where crews battled a blaze that spread from that residence to a neighboring house at 1523 East Reserve St. Fire crews had the blaze out in about 30 minutes.

A woman was using a battery charger to try to jump start her vehicle. The charger had a system failure or malfunctioned, sparking a fire on a fence, Vancouver Fire Marshal Heidi Scarpelli said.

From there, the hot conditions and wind helped spread the blaze to the two homes, she said. Vancouver reached about 104 degrees when the fire started, the hottest Aug. 3 on record, creating a perfect storm of conditions to fuel the flames.

The ranch-style house at 1517 East Reserve St. was a total loss, Scarpelli said, causing an estimated $264,582 in total damage to structure and contents.

The neighboring two-story house, 1523 East Reserve St., sustained $198,800 in damage to the structure and contents, Scarpelli said.

Three people, four dogs and one cat were displaced by the fire, Scarpelli said. One cat died in the blaze.