The Homer Volunteer Fire Department recently made two saves in which the fires could have fully destroyed homes if not for a rapid response.
“Two saves in a month. Go team, right?” said Fire Chief Terry Kadel. “It’s not me — it’s the volunteers.”
In the more intense fire, firefighters went at about 5:30 a.m. on July 13 to a blaze burning the front deck of a home on Danview Avenue. The resident called 911 when he woke up to flames burning the front porch and living room. Firefighters found the fire had gone up the soffit and into the roof.
Kachemak Emergency Services provided mutual aid with its ladder truck, and firefighters ventilated the roof and put out the fire in the attic. Kadel said the fire burned the front of the house and part of the roof, but otherwise the home was saved. He said a citronella candle left burning on a wood table on the porch started the fire. Flames also ignited plastic cushions on lawn chairs leaning up against the house.
In a second fire at about 7 p.m. on Aug. 2, a resident in a seven-unit apartment complex on Cityview Avenue heard a fire alarm and smelled smoke coming from a vacant apartment being remodeled. Firefighters found a smoldering rag on top of a can of paint stain. They picked up the can and rags with fire-resistant gloves and took them outside where they were put out with extinguishers.
“It was lucky. There was carpet in the structure,” Kadel said. “With rags catching on fire, it could have caught the whole carpet on fire and caused the whole structure to catch on fire.”
Spontaneous combustion caused the rags to smolder, Kadel said. That happens when a chemical reaction in material saturated with paint or stain starts heating up the fabric.
“If they’re wadded up and they’re together and they have oxygen exposing them, that accelerates the exothermic reaction,” Kadel said. “If they’re wadded up, it contains heat.”
To prevent that from happening, he recommends laying paint-saturated rags out flat or hung to dry. That way they can’t contain heat. He also suggested monitoring citronella, scent or lighting candles. Candles should never be left burning when going to bed or leaving the house. Unlike pioneer days where people burned candles all the time for light and understood the risk, people have become complacent, Kadel said.
“We’re forgetting the dangers of them,” he said. “… Always be mindful of candles burning. … Don’t leave candles unattended. Don’t leave candles where children can access them.”