Firefighter 'engulfed in flames' during townhouse fire

Firefighter 'engulfed in flames' during townhouse fire
Photo courtesy Camas-Washougal Fire Department

PORTLAND, Ore. – A firefighter was “briefly engulfed in flames” during a townhouse fire in Camas on Thursday morning.

Firefighter Gary Horst was inside the townhouse when an object fell from a window sill and exploded, according to Chief  Nick Swinhart. The flames surrounded Horst until his partner, Ron Nickles, turned his hose around and put the fire out.

"I turned my head for two seconds. I look back at Gary and he was fully involved, yelling my name," Nickles said with a laugh as he recounted the story. "I had to grab the nozzle, open it up and put him out."

"Lemme tell you, 'stop, drop and roll' didn't come into my mind. It was more like 'where's the water?' said Horst. "So I started hollering for my buddy and he saw it. He trained the hose line on me and put it out."

Horst was protected by his gear and was not injured, Swinhart said.

Nickles explained what happened leading up to his partner catching fire: "Gary goes over to pop the window and something, whatever it was, it was on the shelf, some kind of flammable liquid fell and broke. We saw the glass break and Gary turned into an instant ball of fire."

The fire was at a townhouse on SE Weir Street in Camas. Firefighters found smoke and flames coming from the second floor of the townhouse and decided to fight the fire from the inside.

Investigators are still working to determine the exact cause of the fire, although the resident said he was using a lighter to see under his bed because he had no flashlight. Shortly after that, he saw a fire burning near the bed and fled the house and called 9-1-1, Swinhart said.

The resident was not hurt. The Red Cross will help him find temporary housing.