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Jun-24-2009 19:45printcomments

Soldering Torch Sparks Residential Fire‏ in Hillsboro

Hillsboro Fire and Rescue reminds all homeowners who plan to use open flame devices to always have a fire extinguisher within reach.

Hillsboro Fire Engineer Randy Tegen
Hillsboro Fire Engineer Randy Tegen removes charred insulation from the crawl space of a Hillsboro home after the homeowner accidentally ignited plastic-coated heating duct work with a propane torch. Courtesy: Storm Smith/Hillsboro Fire

(HILLSBORO, Ore.) - Fire investigators in Hillsboro say a homeowner replacing his own water heater sparked a one-alarm fire that damaged his Hillsboro home Wednesday afternoon.

Storm Smith with Hillsboro Fire says the fire at 132 SE 41st Avenue was reported to 9-1-1 dispatchers at 3:36 p.m.

"When the first Hillsboro Firefighters arrived from the Parkwood Station #5, they found residents outside waiving them in and smoke pouring from the crawl spaces of the home."

Smith says firefighters entered the crawl space and found active fire beneath the house.

"Crawling in the limited space with air packs on, they extinguished the flames in about 10-minutes. They spent another 25-minutes removing charred insulation and ensuring all embers were out."

Smith says twenty firefighters responded to the scene including an engine company from Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue. No one was injured.

Hillsboro Police blocked Main Street on either side of SE 41st Avenue for safety reasons. The home is located at the corner of Main and SE 41st Ave.

Homeowner Don Branson, 58, told investigators he was installing a new water heater in his garage.

"Branson was using a propane torch to connect the water pipes when the flames erupted. Fire investigators say the most likely cause of the fire spreading through the home was the ignition of plastic-coated heating duct work in the space just beyond where the water pipes entered the wall. Damage estimate may reach $30,000."

Fire damage was confined to the crawl spaces of the home, Smith said.

"However, the entire home suffered moderate smoke damage. Branson and his two adult children will be staying with relatives until the home is habitable again."

Branson had no fire extinguisher nearby.

"I plan to buy an extinguisher--a big one," he said, when interviewed by firefighters.

Hillsboro Fire and Rescue reminds all homeowners who plan to use open flame devices to always have a fire extinguisher within reach.

Fire extinguishers can be found at most home improvement retailers and even in larger grocery stores. For more fire and life safety information, visit: or call 503-681-6166.

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Antone P. Braga June 26, 2009 2:56 am (Pacific time)

Some thoughts on disaster preparedness/recovery and big insurance: Are You Disaster Ready? What do you expect in case of loss? Who cares? Who has disaster preparedness/recovery money for that? I don't have all the answers, but I do have this one: A letter pertaining to disaster (hurricane, earthquake, tornado, flood, fire, etc.) has been sent to President Obama on behalf of all insurance policyholders. As a matter of transparency on the record of insurance consumer protection, any response by President Obama will be posted on the following Websites for review: and Qui potest et debet vetare, jubet: (Law Maxim) HE WHO CAN AND OUGHT TO FORBID A THING [IF HE DO NOT FORBID IT] DIRECTS IT

Mike H. June 24, 2009 11:59 pm (Pacific time)

To anybody planning to replace their own water heaters: Use Mapp gas instead of propane to solder. Propane burns just barely hot enough to solder and takes too long, making soldering very difficult by overheating the pipes and burning out the flux. It may work on 1/2" copper but because water heater lines are typically 3/4" or 1" he probably had one hell of a time. I have tried soldering with propane before and it is not a pleasant experience. Tim, how much does it cost to advertise on your site? I work with my father running our small family plumbing business located in Salem. Perhaps I can convince him to advertise a little.

Tim King: Mike, I'm sure we can find something that will fit his budget.  Our ads are very affordable and I will have Bonnie email you some examples, thanks for thinking about us because that is our life blood.

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