At 4:12am this morning, callers to 9-1-1 reported smoke and ash near Canyon Road and SW 97th Avenue in Beaverton. An additional caller reported bushes on fire at the Shilo Inn located at 9900 SW Canyon Road. Firefighters from TVF&R’s Station 65 arrived to find flames spreading up the exterior siding of the hotel and several occupants evacuated from the building.
Firefighters aggressively fought the fire which was spreading into vents near the roof. Additional firefighters conducted searches to make sure all the occupants were out of the building. Within ten minutes, firefighters contained the fire. They continued working for more than an hour to ensure that hots spots in the walls and attic space did not rekindle. Eight rooms received smoke damage, as well as some broken windows and breached walls from fire suppression efforts. Four vehicles parked near the fire were damaged from radiant heat. Though the building had an alarm system and a pull station was activated by an occupant, there were no fire sprinklers. No one was injured.
A fire investigator has determined that the most probable cause of the fire was improperly discarded smoking materials that ignited bark dust and extended to bushes and the building. Hotel managers reported that fresh bark dust had recently been added to the landscaping, and they’ve experienced other small fires in bark dust.
BARK DUST FIRES, AND FIRES CAUSED BY CIGARETTES ARE COMMON.
In 2014, TVF&R crews responded to 352 reported bark dust fires and 143 fires caused by improperly discarded smoking materials. That number is likely higher since many people extinguish bark dust or cigarette-caused fires without reporting them. Bark dust or mulch can add beauty and color to a landscape, keep weeds in check, control dust, and enrich soil as it decomposes, but it’s also a highly flammable organic material. Bark dust can mask a creeping fire. As the wood in mulch begins to decompose, it produces heat. When the heat cannot dissipate, fire risk increases, especially when introduced to an open flame such as a cigarette or fireworks. Over several hours a tiny smoldering fire can slowly creep into plants, trees, homes, and buildings.
BARK DUST AND CIGARETTE-CAUSED FIRES ARE PREVENTABLE.
• Smokers should properly discard smoking materials in an ashtray or appropriate metal container with a lid.
• When selecting bark mulch for your home or business, consider fire safety and not just how long the mulch will last or how it will look. Do not place bark dust or mulch near siding.
• Avoid placing mulch or bark dust near potential sources of ignition, such as decorative lights or outdoor appliances.
• Spread bark dust or mulch in thin layers so that heat can easily dissipate and keep it moist.
• Consider using an alternative product, such as cocoa shells, decorative rock, or brick chips.