Two fires on two Fridays teach two lessons

Most fires can be avoided, Portland Fire & Rescue officials say.
See the devastating results of two such blazes …

After knocking down the fire, Portland Fire & Rescue firefighters move inside on the 10400 block of NE Morris St. to finish extinguishing the blaze that stared in the front-room.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The stillness of the frigid night in Parkrose Heights was shattered late Friday night, January 18, by the sound of wailing and whooping sirens and flashing emergency lights a little after midnight.

Trucks and engines from Portland Fire & Rescue Stations 12, 2, 7, and 30 were racing to a house fire the 10400 block of NE Morris Street. “The fire was ripping so strongly,” a firefighter on the first-arriving truck told us, “you could see it lighting up the sky from NE 102nd Avenue.”

Firefighters, dressed in their heavy turnouts, haul saws up to the roof to cut holes for ventilation and to put out fire that extended to the attic.

Fire lights the sky
Portland Fire & Rescue Battalion Chief C4, Jay Olson, agreed, “The fire was going pretty good.  I’m sure the firefighters saw it from a long way away. The front part of the house was fully involved in flames upon arrival. The firefighters quickly knocked down the fire.”

Flames from the front of the house traveled to the back of the home, Olson told us on scene. “The smoke traveled throughout the entire structure.”

This fire presented a challenge Olson added. “Firefighters had to cut in to the roof, tear down ceilings, and go through walls to extinguish the fire.” Firefighters tended the ruins of the house until 5:30 a.m.

Fortunately, fire crews discovered all the occupants had escaped with their dog, said the Battalion Chief.

Although firefighters arrived minutes, one look at this photograph will show how intensely the fire ripped through this Parkrose Heights home.

Escapes midnight blaze
We approached people standing on the curb across from the smoldering home; firefighters suggested they were the neighbors who called in the alarm. We asked what they saw when the called in the alarm.

“Ah, well, actually, it’s our house,” said Josh Schrader. “We haven’t been living here all that long.”

Schrader continued, “My dog woke me up.  It let me know there was something going on in the living room. As I was making my way down the stairs I could smell something burning. I got to the living room and I could see that stuff we had in the living room was on fire. I turned around and got everyone out.”

Firefighters pull down the ceiling to make sure all of the fire has been completely extinguished.

The homeowner paused to look for their kitten, and said he couldn’t find it. “I didn’t think we had much time.” Schrader gestured to the woman wrapped in a blanket standing next to him. “Me and her, we made it out with what were wearing.”

Although we didn’t press Schrader, he volunteered, “One good thing is all my fishing gear is in the trailer in the driveway! It’s OK.”

Although the fire was put out quickly, crews remained on the scene looking for flair-ups until 5:30 that morning.

Lessons to be learned
Fire Investigators could not determine if there was a working Smoke Alarm in the home. The cause of the fire was a malfunctioning baseboard heater, which ignited nearby combustible materials.

About this fire, Portland Fire & Rescue spokesman Lt. Dave Centers asked us to remind readers: “Always give any heater or heating device (including hot water heaters) at least 16 to 18 inches of clearance.  Do not store or pile combustible materials (paper, clothing, wood, etc.) in these spaces.”

Friday Fire #2

As the other crews pull up, they find the fire was put out quickly by the crew of Truck 11.

A week later, on Friday January 25 – the report of another house fire, in outer East Portland, came in at 1:21 p.m. One minute after the call came in, Portland Fire & Rescue Truck 11 pulled up to the burning home in the 5100 block of SE 85th Avenue, a couple of blocks south of Eastport Plaza.

Pumping water directly from the tank in their engine, the Truck 11 crew rushed in and attacked the fire.

This is the charred room the firefighters saw when the looked in the window.

With minutes, units from Stations 25, 19, and 29 joined their comrades – but the fire was already out, and the damage was done.

The house didn’t look damaged when we arrived. “It looks like a bedroom fire,” said Battalion Chief C3, Pat Davies.

The firefighters removed a burned door and some charred furniture as they “overhauled” [looking for embers and removing burnt material] the bedroom. Burned material is at the feet of the firefighters.

A gentleman talking with fire officials at the home stopped and told us his daughter lived at the house. “I think my granddaughter was playing with matches or a lighter in the bedroom.”

“Damage was extensive enough, to force the two adults and three kids to be displaced from the home,” reported Portland Fire & Rescue spokesperson Kim Kosmas. “The investigator determined that the fire was started by a youth playing with a lighter.”

A Portland Fire & Rescue fire inspector talks with a gentleman who identified himself as the father of the one of the residents of the house.

Lesson to be learned
“Kids are fascinated by fire,” Kosmas told us. “Parents must teach their children that fire is a powerful, destructive force. And, it helps to keep lighters and matches out the reach of small children.”

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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