Three adults were displaced Wednesday after an extremely cluttered house west of Battle Ground burned down.
Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue, Clark County Fire District 3 and the Vancouver Fire Department were dispatched at 2:12 p.m. to 8710 N.E. 244th St., in the Cherry Grove area. A Clark-Cowlitz crew arrived in 7 minutes to find a single-story house on fire and could see fire and smoke from the windows in the living room and kitchen, according to a news release.
The crew announced to incoming units that they would have problems accessing the house. The yard was so cluttered with vehicles, appliances and storage bins that firefighters first had to clear out the clutter before they could stretch hose lines. By that time, the fire was too large for crews to go inside, and the interior of the house was also piled high with stuff, Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue said.
“In 37 years in the fire service, this is one of the most extremely cluttered homes I’ve ever seen,” Clark-Cowlitz Fire Chief John Nohr said in the news release. “I feel for the family that has lost all of their possessions, but I also feel for the firefighters who put themselves at significant risk trying to fight a fire in a house this full.”
Nohr said firefighters can get lost in clutter inside houses when they become smoky during a fire and that the piles of stuff can tip and trap someone. The extra weight can also make the floor collapse more quickly.
In a phone interview late Wednesday afternoon, Nohr noted the sound of a large amount of ammunition exploding in the background from where it was stored in the basement.
Crews contained the fire to the house and stayed into the night extinguishing hot spots under and around debris, the news release states.
No one was injured, and the three people who were displaced are staying with family, the fire agency said.
Clark County Animal Control examined four horses in a nearby barn, and none were burned, according to Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue.
The Clark County Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating the cause.
Five fire engines, two ladder trucks, four water tenders, seven chief officers, three fire investigators and 34 total personnel responded to the fire. Water tenders shuttled water from the nearest fire hydrant, which was three-fourths of a mile away, the fire department said.