By ERIC A. HOWALD
and JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes
A family escaped an apartment fire on Thursday, April 19, in a blaze authorities believe may have been started by a child.
The Keizer Fire District was called to the Partridge Apartments at 11:23 a.m. Resident Dave Eastman was returning from class on his bike when he pulled up to unit 3956.
“Smoke was just barreling out,” Eastman said. Eastman called 9-1-1.
A mother and two children were in the apartment when the fire started, said neighbors.
“Early reports indicate that a child playing with fire in the apartment, while his mother was sleeping, was the fire cause and firefighters had been to the residence before for a similar event,” Keizer Fire Chief Jeff Cowan said.
There were no working smoke detectors in the home. One person attempted to put out the fire with an extinguisher, but it was ineffective.
The mother and youngest safely exited the apartment, but a young boy remained inside.
Donald Homer was visiting his cousin, James Rowe, in a nearby apartment and was walking by when he heard that a child was inside.
He called for his cousin and ran inside.
“I went right back into the back room where the fire was,” Homer said. “It was already going up into the top shelf of the closet.”
The child eventually got out unhurt. Homer described seeing two fires, one on the floor – possibly a pillow or mattress edge – and another on a closet shelf, with yellow smoke. He and another man were treated by Keizer Fire medics for smoke inhalation.
“It just started getting too much for me; my eyes were burning,” Homer said. “… I was even looking in between mattresses, thinking the kid might have hid there.”
Cowan said two engine and a medic unit were on the scene in three minutes and quickly extinguished a fire in the back bedroom of the ground-level apartment. An apartment above the unit where the fire started was also billowing smoke after the fire was extinguished. Keizer Police officers helped evacuate neighboring units.
The fire is still under investigation.