Chehalis: Homeless family chased from van by fire

Wednesday, May 10, 2017 at 10:01 am

Updated at 11:57 a.m.

By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – A family living out of their vehicle escaped when it caught fire last night in Chehalis although the father sustained severe burns to his hands pulling their child to safety.

Firefighters called about 12:20 a.m. to the end of a street between Wal-Mart and Home Depot found their van fully engulfed in flames, according to the Chehalis Fire Department.

Fire Capt. Casey Beck said the father suffered third-degree burns to his hands moving burning material, grabbing the baby and then threw a small propane cook stove out of the vehicle.

They had been using the portable stove for heat during the night, according to the Chehalis Police Department.

Fire Chief Ken Cardinale said all three were transported to the hospital, the mother and 3-year-old boy for observation and the dad for his injuries.

Red Cross was contacted to assist them, according to police.

Capt. Beck said they have been staying in their vehicle for at least the past couple of weeks. The van was destroyed.

He expected the 37-year-old man was probably transferred to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

A fire investigator will check into the cause of the blaze, Cardinale said.

It’s very dangerous to use items such as a small barbecues or propane-fueled equipment in confined spaces, he said, because they produce carbon monoxide. People can easily be overcome by the colorless, odorless gas, he said.

“So, people don’t know they’re being poisoned by it,” he said. “It takes far too many lives.”

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