Blaze shutters decades-old SE Portland barber shop

See why there were some tense moments, as crews battled an unusual fire that closed down SE 82nd Avenue during rush hour …

Fire erupts from the roof of the Dale Brothers Barber Shop.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Drivers during rush hour might have thought it was an April Fool’s prank when SE 82nd Avenue was closed down on April 1, just before 5:00 p.m., but it wasn’t. Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) crews had arrived to fight a stubborn blaze at a barber shop on the corner of SE Ramona Street.

“My dad took me there for my first haircut,” recalled neighbor Merle Lincoln, as he watched crews scramble to put out the fire at the Dale Brothers Barber Shop – which has done business for four decades at 5762 SE 82nd Avenue. “And, I took my son there for his first hair cut.”

Thick smoke nearly hides the six crew members from two PF&R trucks as they battle this SE Portland blaze.

The crew riding PF&R Engine 11 from the Lents neighborhood’s fire station arrived first, and reported seeing “heavy fire and smoke” coming from the two-story house, long ago converted into a barber shop.

Over their two-way radios, firefighters seemed, at first, frustrated in their efforts to locate stairways to the upper floor, while other crew members entered the burning building to search for possible victims.

Once inside the attic, fire crews start to fight the fire from the interior, as well as from the roof.

Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Sgt. John Anderson said he was on-scene when the firefighters opened an upper door to gain entry.

“When it opened, I think the air that rushed in fueled the fire,” observed Anderson. “There was a ‘foomp’ sound, the whole roof lifted a little, and flames shot out from around the eves.”

Responders with PF&R Woodstock Truck 25 and Hazelwood Truck 7 laddered up onto the steeply sloped roof – to provide “vertical ventilation”, by cutting holes to release smoke and heat, so that the firefighters inside could navigate the interior of the business.

A firefighter with Engine 25 breaks open the front of the second floor siding to attack embers in the wall.

“Despite encountering heavy fire on the second floor and attic,” said PF&R Public Information Officer Lt. Rich Chatman, “interior crews were able to stop the fire, and salvage the locally-owned business of 40 years.”

Two firefighters suffered minor injuries that did not require ambulance transport, Chatman noted after the fire.

This was no April Fools prank – SE 82nd Avenue was closed during rush hour as crews battled this stubborn blaze.

PF&R Fire investigators determined the fire cause to be an unspecified electrical problem, Chatman added. “Property loss is estimated at $30,000.”

For now, the barber shop’s telephone has been disconnected, without a forwarding number. Whether or not this long-standing tonsorial parlor reopens is unclear.

© 2013 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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