Explosion and blaze destroy Centennial neighborhood duplex

The blast rocked the area; and a downed power line stalled firefighting efforts. Get the whole story, and exclusive photos, right here …

Portland Fire & Rescue crewmembers quickly knocked down the fire – once PGE cut the juice to a power line that hampered them after they arrived on-scene.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The blaze that burned out a duplex on SE 146th Ave., just behind the All Star Bingo hall and a half block south of SE Stark Street, at about 8:45 p.m. on November 2, was substantial. But what got the attention of neighbors was the initial blast, which rocked the neighborhood.

“I was watching a movie and heard an explosion,” said Jarred Hammersmith, who told us he lives a couple of houses south of the still-smoldering residence near which we were then standing. “It was a pretty big bang. My dad came running downstairs, and when we went outside we saw the fire and a lot of black smoke. The guy they took away to the ambulance wasn’t moving; he didn’t look very good.”

Steven Springsted said he was in the All Star Bingo building when the fire broke out nearby. “I ran into the house and didn’t see anyone, so I left. There were flames shooting out the window of the other part of the duplex.”

When we arrived on scene, paramedics were preparing to transport the victim to the hospital.

Tense moments for firefighters
“Two people were seen going back into the structure,” said Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) spokesman Lt. Allen Oswalt told us. “While firefighters attacked the fire, other crews searched for those who may be trapped inside. The individuals seen running into the building were entering the unburned side of the duplex, and escaped without injury.”

Firefighters also experienced anxious moments when they discovered a live power line hanging behind the duplex, Oswalt said. “Firefighters were warned to say away from the area for about 15 minutes until a PGE crew arrived and disconnected the power.”

The first crews arrived five minutes after the first alarm was sounded. Although the fire was substantial, PF&R crews knocked it down in minutes, and fully extinguished it about 25 minutes later.

Extensive damage and an injury
“One middle-aged male was treated on-scene for cuts and minor burns, and transported to a local hospital,” Oswalt reported.

One side of the duplex was extensively damaged by the blast and fire; the other side had some smoke damage. Initially, the damage estimate was $100,000.

“Fire Investigators are listing the cause of the fire as ‘undetermined, pending further investigation’,” Oswalt said.

The rapid response of PF&R crews kept the fire from consuming both units in the duplex, or spreading to apartments nearby.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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