‘Extreme clutter’ hampers efforts of firefighters after house catches on fire 


Firefighters from three departments responded to a report of a house on fire in the Cherry Grove area just after 2:10 p.m. on March 16.

When an engine from Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue (CCFR) arrived at the fire at 8710 NE 244th St., personnel announced there would be “access issues” to the single-story residence because of clutter, stated a news release. 

Fire and smoke were visible from the windows in the kitchen and living room area of the home, but the yard around the house was cluttered with appliances, vehicles and storage bins. That made it difficult for firefighters to quickly stretch hose lines to the structure, stated the release.

“Once firefighters were able to clear out some of the clutter and make access to the house, the fire had grown too large to safely make an offensive interior attack,” stated the release. “In addition, the interior spaces of the house were also very cluttered with high piles of clothing, storage bins, appliances, furniture, and other items.”

Firefighters took up “defensive” positions and sprayed water from outside of the structure to control the fire, stated the release, but the amount of material inside the structure made it difficult to ensure hotspots under the debris were fully extinguished. Firefighters were expected to be on the scene through the night as they attempted to put out the remaining hotspots. 

“Normally in these types of fires, we bring in a track hoe to tear apart the piles,” said CCFR Fire Chief John Nohr. “Due to the clutter in the yard, we won’t be able to get heavy equipment in there to help with extinguishment.”

The release stated extreme clutter is dangerous for firefighters, especially when mixed with a smoky environment, because responders can get lost in the clutter. The piles of items can also tip over, crush or entrap firefighters. The additional weight of materials can cause an early collapse of floors and walls as well, stated the release. 

“In 37 years in the fire service, this is one of the most extremely cluttered homes I’ve ever seen,” said Nohr. “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.”

The CCFR Incident Commander called the Clark County Animal Control to the scene to evaluate four horses that were located in the barn next to the home. The animals were not threatened by the fire, but the condition of the horses necessitated an evaluation by the animal control officers, stated the release. 

The cause of the fire is not known. Investigators from the Clark County Fire Marshal’s Office were on the scene to conduct an investigation. Three adults were displaced by the fire, according to the release. The people will stay with nearby family members. No injuries were reported during the incident.

Since there were no nearby fire hydrants, water tenders were used to bring in water from the nearest fire hydrant which was located three-quarters of a mile away.

Clark County Fire District 3 and the Vancouver Fire Department also responded alongside CCFR.

Resources on the scene include five fire engines, two ladder trucks, four water tenders, seven chief officers, three fire investigators and 34 personnel. 


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