Accurate building plans help firefighters quickly extinguish SE Portland apartment fire

Find out how Portland Fire & Rescue pre-fire
planning actions may save your life some day …

Firefighters, crewing their brand new engine from Portland Fire & Rescue’s Station 25, pull hundreds of feet of lines [hoses] off their rig on the way in to fight the apartment fire at the back of a SE Portland complex.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
When an apartment at 7890 SE 72nd Avenue, just south of SE Flavel St., caught fire about 2:30 p.m. on February 13, it didn’t catch the attention of anyone in the area except for the neighbors in the complex who reported it to 9-1-1 dispatchers.

On our way to cover another story at that time, we drove within a block of the burning building, and didn’t notice the blaze – the apartment complex is set well off the street.

Nevertheless, the first PF&R rigs arrived on scene within two minutes being dispatched to the blaze.

A firefighter from PF&R Truck 25 carries a ladder to the unit on fire, located far corner of an apartment complex.

Minutes later, crews from Stations 11, 25 and 29 were fighting the fire. We walked west on the complex’s a long, winding driveway, following Engine 25 as slowly rolled along. Two parallel snakes of bright yellow lines [hoses] unfolded from the truck’s back bins as it moved into position, several hundred feet from the street.

“We have a single unit on fire,” Battalion Chief District 4 Todd Keathley told us at the scene. “There are three other units in this building, total of four. Two rooms of the one unit are involved in fire. We got it knocked down quickly; made a search. No one was in the structure.”

Although the fire was well involved when firefighters arrived, crews knocked it down in minutes, saving the other units in the building.

Keathley said the fire broke out on the first floor of these two-story townhouses. “The units are designed with an open area to the second level. The fire would’ve extended up through the building pretty quickly, but they got a fast knockdown on it.”

“No one was injured in this fire,” PF&R spokesman Lt. Damon Simmons confirmed. “This positive outcome resulted from quick action by neighbors; they called 9-1-1 right away and knocked on doors to ensure that occupants in nearby apartments were out.”

Firefighters drag a charred, smoldering mattress or large cushion from the burning apartment.

Inside and out, fire crews check to make sure the fire has been completely extinguished.

Pre fire plan prevents tragedy
The four-plex that caught fire was at the very back of a long, oddly-configured – but nicely maintained –complex of buildings just south of Whitman Elementary School and just west of Flavel Park.

We asked Battalion Chief Keathley why firefighters so easily located the out-of-the way unit.

“A firefighter from Station 11 (on SE 92nd Ave. near SE Foster Rd.) had recently ‘pre-fired’ the building. Engine 11 directed some crews to respond by coming in on SE Lambert St. that dead-ends just east of the complex.”

The firefighter about whom Keathley referred, Kirk Stubblefield, nodded as he held a clipboard of drawings in his hand.

Thanks to their pre fire planning visit, PF&R Engine 11′s Kirk Stubblefield was able to help crews reach the blazing unit quickly.

“A pre fire planning visit helps us make sure we have an accurate drawing of the buildings and the complexes we serve,” Stubblefield explained. “We note any unusual configurations. Part of what we do, when we’re not responding to fire or medical emergencies, is go out and we document primary and secondary entrances.”

Firefighters poked and pulled down walls, inspected the roof, and made sure the fire was out before they started draining and refolding their lines. We noticed crews pulling out what looked to be a burned mattress.

“Red Cross has been called to assist the adult occupant of the apartment with finding shelter,” Simmons later reported. “The other apartment units in the building are still habitable. The cause of this fire is currently under investigation.”

The crew of brand new PF&R Engine 25 repack their lines; making sure their rig is ready to respond quickly to the next fire.

© 2009 David F Ashton ~ East Portland News

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