Elderly Powellhurst-Gilbert couple escape early morning blaze

While the residents will have some cleaning up to do, fast response by Portland Fire & Rescue companies kept damage to their house to a minimum – and no one was injured. Read a first-person account of the fire by the man who helped build the home, more than 50 years ago …

Homeowner Walt Allen showed us where he thinks the fire started, here, outside his house.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The “Residential Fire” call came in just after 4:30 a.m. on January 19.

Within minutes, the flashing lights and sirens of trucks from two Portland Fire & Rescue companies cut through the cold, damp early morning fog, in this quiet Powellhurst Gilbert neighborhood.

The residents of this ranch-style house in the Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood already knew their home was ablaze.

“I heard the fire alarm, and thought I smelled smoke,” homeowner Walt Allen told us outside his house in the 13700 block of SE Bush St.

Confronts fire in living room
“When I came running out into the living room, I could see flame right where we have our television. I grabbed a fire extinguisher. It slowed the fire down.”

What he didn’t know, Allen says, is that the fire had actually started outside his home, and was burning through both the exterior and interior walls. “It must have created a lot of heat; it melted a lot of stuff.”

“My wife, Marion, and I got out OK,” reports Allen, “so did our dog. So far, the worst thing was my Golden Retriever ran off. We’re looking for him right now.”

Showing us around his house, Allen said he and his father-in-law built the home in 1955. “When they passed way, they wanted us to live here; we have for the last 20 years. We have a lot of history tied up here.”

Firefighters quickly doused the flames and kept the blaze from spreading through their 50-year-old home. This pile, in the driveway, is the “overhaul” (burnt materials) from the fire.

Behind his home, Allen shows us a fish pond. “We have an electrical system around it to keep the raccoons out. Its power system is what caused the fire.” He says most of the damage inside their home is from smoke.

Commends firefighters
“They did a good job. [The firefighters] showed up right away and got the fire out,” Allen says as we walk back to the front of their home.

Looking at the pile of burned debris (called “overhaul”), he said he was afraid some valuables were burned. “I’m not sure what’s there; maybe our cellular phones. I sure hope the new camera my daughter gave me isn’t there.”

¬© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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