Victim, origin established in fatal fire

The fire that killed an Aberdeen man originated with a heating device

Fire department personnel have determined the origin of a vehicle fire that killed an Aberdeen man last week.

Robert Allen Lowdermilk, 42, of Aberdeen, was killed when a fire originating with a portable propane heater consumed the vehicle he was in on Tuesday, Jan. 24. Lowdermilk’s identity was confirmed by the Grays Harbor County Coroner’s Office.

“There was a small, portable propane heater that was in use in the vehicle,” said Aberdeen Fire Chief Dave Golding in an interview. “Looking at the scene has determined that was the cause and origin of the fire.”

The Aberdeen Fire Department responded to the fire Tuesday after multiple passersby called 911 several minutes before noon, with some attempting to render assistance. AFD and the Aberdeen Police Department are investigating the death.

Golding said that calling 911 should be the first step in any emergency situation, and that people attempting to help should take care to protect themselves and not endanger their own lives.

Operating a propane-fueled device in close quarters poses a number of risks, Golding said, including carbon dioxide poisoning or the risk of accidentally igniting other items in the space.

“When you’re using one of those gas-fired devices, do so in a ventilated space and be mindful of the CO2 exposure,” Golding said.

Vehicle fires from using an independent heating source are not common in the area, Golding said.

“This is the first one that I can recall as of a ‘person in a vehicle keeping warm’ type of thing as an actual fire,” Golding said. “We have, from time to time, people getting into a vacant building and starting fires to stay warm.”

Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or