911 call indicates troubled man set his own home ablaz

The fire burned so hot, the Coachman house trailer was quickly gutted even though firefighters arrived within three minutes of the call. See firefighters and rescue workers who saved the victim; learn why neighbors are puzzled …

A man, thought to have started the fire in the house trailer where he was living, is taken into custody by police when we arrived. He’s being checked over by a medic.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The Tall Firs Mobile Court, on SE Division Street near SE 156th Avenue, is pretty quiet, residents say.

But, a fire ‚Äì officials aren’t commenting on whether or not the blaze was intentional ‚Äì causes a commotion the evening of January 28. The 9-1-1 dispatch we hear indicates a man called emergency operators and indicated he had set his house trailer on fire.

Greg Salby lives across the driveway from the smoldering Coachman house trailer. “The fire lit up the night,” he tells us, looking at the smoldering frame of what used to be a home.

“Flames were coming out the sides, windows, everywhere. It doesn’t seem like a trailer like that would have that much stuff inside that would burn.”

Twenty-one Portland Fire & Rescue firefighters fight a losing battle to save the mobile home; but they do keep other trailers and from catching fire.

According to Lt. Allen Oswalt, spokesperson for Portland Fire & Rescue, the $20,000 travel trailer, and its $10,000 worth of contents, were a total loss.

“We’re always concerned when a fire breaks out in a park,” Oswalt reported. “With narrow streets, and tightly-spaced units, a fire like this can easily spread ‚Äì especially when driven by the winds.”

Fire bureau records show that the call came in at 8:54 p.m.; firefighters were on scene at 8:57 p.m. ‚Äì the fire was out by 9:09 p.m. “In total, we had 21 fire fighters, 6 engines, and a rescue unit working this fire,” Oswalt says.

We asked how the fire started.

“The report says, ‘Form of heat was unknown’,” answers Oswalt.

Whether he’s a victim or perpetrator is still unknown. All medics comprehended is that they had a patient who needed to be rushed to the hospital.

The condition of the man who was in the trailer when the fire started rapidly deteriorates. After being stabilized by paramedics, he is soon on his way to Emanuel Hospital. He was admitted in “serious condition” according to officials.

Not much left of the travel trailer that was once a person’s home.

Asked about the man suspected of being involved in the blaze, Selby, a 25 year resident of the mobile home park answers, “I knew him a little. He seemed like a pretty nice guy. I wouldn’t think he’s the kind of person who would do something like this on purpose.”

Laws prohibit hospitals from releasing the name or condition of a patient. As of this time, the man injured in the fire hasn’t been charged with a crime.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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