Expert: SE Portland grass fire not started by a meteorite - KPTV - FOX 12

Expert: SE Portland grass fire not started by a meteorite

Posted: Updated: Aug 13, 2015 12:51 PM

An expert says that despite eyewitness accounts, there's very little chance a meteorite started a fire in the front yard of a southeast Portland home.

Firefighters responded to a home in the 4600 block of Southeast 44th Avenue around 10:30 p.m. Thursday and found an area of approximately five feet in diameter burning.

Several eyewitnesses told firefighters they saw a flash and something fell from the sky before the fire started.

"It was a very big noise and it flashed through the windows, just lit up the house."

Homeowner Patrick Story rushed outside and found his yard on fire.

One of Story's neighbors was outside watching the Perseid Meteor Shower. She told Story she saw a white and green flash then heard the explosion.

A bush in the yard next to Story's also caught fire. All that got neighbors wondering if a meteorite was responsible.

"My sense based on what Marnie said, that something flew through there and set that on fire on the way and then set this fire. But what was that? Ha, that's a very good question of what that was. We would all like to know," said Story.

Could that object have been a meteorite? Firefighters said they searched the area that burned but weren't able to find any evidence of what caused the fire.

Dick Pugh at Portland State University's Cascadia Meteorite Laboratory said it's highly unlikely.

Pugh said there's never been a confirmed case of a meteorite causing a fire.

Meteorites are similar in consistency to dry ice when they reach Earth and you're more likely to get frostbite from one than to suffer a burn, Pugh said.

Though we are in the peak of the annual Perseid meteor shower this week, Pugh said meteors that enter the atmosphere are generally no larger than a BB, and they burn up long before they reach the ground.

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