(La Porte, IN) - Improper use of a propane heater is the apparent cause of a fire that destroyed a two-car garage last night in La Porte.
The 1 ½ story garage at 2105 Monroe Street was fully engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived just after 8 p.m.
Fire Chief Andy Snyder said a three foot long torpedo shaped space heater running on propane was too close to a pile of old picture and window frames and other materials like cardboard. The materials were there from the residents cleaning out the garage.
Snyder said the heat produced by such devices is easily 200 degrees or more and the materials may have become hot enough from the heat to ignite.
Another possibility is old gasoline and oil on the concrete floor igniting from the heat and spread to the materials, he said.
Snyder said two women with their backs facing the pile of wood and cardboard didn’t notice the fire until a work boot worn by one of the women caught fire.
“They noticed it when they looked down and her boot was on fire,” he said.
The woman quickly put out the fire on her boot, which may have been stained with flammable chemicals from her construction job. Both women tried stomping out the flames but were not successful.
The roof above a loft in the garage collapsed from the extent of the fire damage.
Snyder says that space heaters of any kind should be at least three feet away from anything that could catch fire. In this case, the heater appeared to have been 18 inches or less from the pile of debris.
Fortunately, there were no injuries. Snyder said three cars parked outside the garage were quickly moved to a safe distance from the fire and were not damaged. A tractor and other belongings inside the garage were destroyed, though.