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Lucky to be Alive After Home Fire Explosion

OKC family speaks with Red Cross volunteer
“We are planning on partnering with the American Red Cross to conduct our smoke installation program

Liz Coulombe was 15 years old the night her family home, a one-hundred-year-old farmhouse in Mosier, Oregon, caught on fire. Decades later, she remembers that night "just like it was yesterday.”  Coulombe, who now works for Citizens Bank in Corvallis, Oregon, recalls her mother yelling in the middle of the night, “The garage is on fire!” 

Coulombe and her family scrambled outside as the flames engulfed her family’s garage in a hot, orange inferno within seconds.  Two metal settling tanks that were stored in the garage (her father was an electrician and welder) exploded one right after the other.  

Fortunately, no one was physically hurt from the fire and explosions. Even the family dog made it out safely. But the fire took nearly all of the Coulombe family's possessions. Nevertheless, Coulombe and her family were very lucky. They were able to evacuate safely, and they survived.  They were able to rebuild their home and garage with the generous help and support of their friends and neighbors.

Couloumbe’s memories of the fire came back, the day that the American Red Cross visited Citizens Bank to discuss the value of home fire prevention with bank employees.

“We didn’t have a smoke alarm in our home when I was a girl,” said Coulombe. “When I the Red Cross speaker talked to our team about the importance of installing smoke alarms to save lives, it hit a nerve for me personally. I felt compelled to get involved.”

That’s when Coulombe decided to give back, with help from the Red Cross. She is currently working with the local Red Cross chapter, to schedule a smoke alarm installation event in her community. Coulombe plans to organize a team of bank employees who will help install smoke alarms later this year in homes.  

Coulombe anticipates that the volunteer event will be a great team-building opportunity for her colleagues. Citizens Bank has a mission to give back to the communities where its employees and customers live and work.  


“We are planning on partnering with the American Red Cross to conduct our smoke installation program. We are looking at the option of installing carbon monoxide detectors too,” Coulombe said.

The Red Cross Home Fire Campaign aims to reduce death and injury by installing free smoke alarms in homes that need them.

The Red Cross responds to an average of two home fires every day throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington.  Victims of home fires often have as little as two minutes to safely escape a burning home. On average, seven people die every day in the United States from a home fire. A working smoke alarm can cut the risk of death from a home fire in half.

Smoke alarms also have a tamper-resistant, 10-year lithium battery and are installed free-of-charge. Residents of Oregon and Southwest Washington can obtain free smoke alarms for their homes by calling 503-528-5783; by making an appointment online via the Red Cross website at; or by emailing