MILWAUKIE, Ore. – Space heaters, burning cigarettes, clutter around the fireplace – those are all things you probably consider fire hazards around the house. But what about a snow globe?
As improbable as it sounds, firefighters say a snow globe was to blame for a charred couch at a Milwaukie home on Saturday.
“It was the city of Portland snow globe that tried to burn my house down,” Ken Gambell said.
On Saturday evening, the sun was in just the right position shining through the Portland snow globe perched in Gambell’s window. It focused a beam of light directly on his couch.
That beam of light got hot enough that it started to burn the couch, setting off the smoke alarm. A neighbor heard the alarm, came to investigate and found the beam of light focused on the smoldering couch, according to Clackamas Fire District #1 spokesman Steve McAdoo.
“Apparently when the sun came out, the 15 minutes it showed this year, it hit this globe and created like a magnifying effect on the back of the couch,” Gambell said.
As McAdoo wrote in an e-mail to KATU News, “Kind of like when you would burn ants with a magnifying glass. Weird, huh?”
McAdoo said it was a good thing Gambell had a working smoke alarm. The neighbor who heard it called 9-1-1 and firefighters put out the fire before it spread to the rest of the house.
“We just want people to be aware of these rare occurrences and know that if it wasn’t for him having a smoke alarm it could have been much worse,” McAdoo said.
"I’m just lucky to have good neighbors," Gambell said. "I mean he heard the smoke alarm in my house from his house, which is probably a block away."
Despite the close call, Gambell has certainly maintained his sense of humor.
“They can’t start a fire on Survivor with flint and tinder,” he said. “But I can start one in my house with a snow globe.”
KATU reporter Emily Sinovic contributed to this report