Oak Knoll-area fire burns boat, garage; no one hurt

ASHLAND — A fire that started when a spark reached gas from a leaky fuel pump destroyed a boat and garage and damaged a home in the Oak Knoll neighborhood Wednesday, Ashland Fire & Rescue officials said.

No one was injured in the fire, which started in the garage and spread through the full length of the attic at 684 Oak Knoll Drive, said Chris Chambers, AFR spokesman. The rest of the house received significant smoke damage, Chambers said.

When responding to the fire, Chambers said he could see a smoke column forming from near Ashland Middle School.

Chambers said a ski boat was inside the garage when the fire sparked and was "badly burnt." The hood of a Buick parked near the opening of the garage was also charred and curled back from flames. The car's bumper was melted off, and its engine bay was black.

There was no immediate estimate of damages, said Chambers.

Homeowner Rodney Hansen, 76, said he and his brother-in-law were priming the boat's fuel pump when it malfunctioned and began spurting gasoline in the garage. The pump wouldn't turn off by its switch, Hansen said, and the men were disconnecting the boat's battery when it sparked and ignited the fuel, he said.

The two men and Hansen's wife, Roberta, 74, escaped unharmed.

"Nobody was hurt, that's the important thing," said Roberta Hansen. "Everything can be replaced."

The couple were watching firefighters work from a few hundred feet down the road.

"It's bad luck," she said, looking down to hold back tears.

Next-door neighbor Karen Giselon said she spotted the fire from her kitchen and rushed outside to her husband, who was already on the phone alerting the Fire Department.

"I was just sheer panicked," said Giselon, adding, "It went from a light smoke to orange and yellow flames within minutes."

Giselon said flames were jetting out the peak of the roof above the garage, and the smoke became thick.

"I tethered the dog and started evacuating," she said.

Before firefighters arrived, and while his wife was evacuating, John Giselon began spraying the fire and his shrubs with a garden hose from his deck, about 30 feet away from the destroyed garage, she said.

Glass was scattered on the Giselons' property where the Hansens' garage's windows blew out, and some of their trees' branches were blackened.

Chambers said the Hansens' home will need extensive work before it is livable again.

"With the amount of smoke that was in the structure, they're probably going to have quite a bit of smoke damage," Chambers said.

The Hansens had lived in the home for a little more than 10 years after moving from Washington state, said Roberta Hansen.

Five engines, two from AFR and three from Jackson County Fire District No. 5, and 16 firefighters responded to the fire, knocking it down within minutes and keeping it from spreading to other homes.

The Hansens have insurance and plan to stay with relatives.

The Hansens' house is a few blocks down the hill from where the 2010 Oak Knoll Fire destroyed 11 homes in the 800 and 900 block.

"Since the last fire up there, we tried to clean up our yard," said Karen Giselon.

She said Wednesday's fire was carrying embers into the shrubs on her property.

"There were so many needles bunched up before we cleaned it up," she said. "I think it could have lit."

Without the "fabulous" response from the Fire Department, she said, the fire may have spread to her home.

Sam Wheeler is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him at 541-499-1470 or email swheeler@dailytidings.com.

Share This Story