Fire displaces residents of three Lents apartments

See what happened, when this circa-1913 Lents Town Center building caught fire. And learn how you can help the displaced fire victims this weekend

The Lents Town Center area is lit up by fire, and clouded by smoke, when a nearby 100+ year old building catches fire.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

It’s unclear what historical significance the structure at 5814 SE 92nd Avenue has, but the 1913 building, with an acupuncture studio on the ground floor and three apartments above, is a fixture in the Lents Town Center area.

Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) was called there on November 20 at 6:28 p.m., on the report of a fire in the back of the building.

Whipped by a strong wind, smoke and fire shoot off the back edge of the structure.

“Firefighters from Lents Station 11, located just a half block away, arrived and noted heavy smoke billowing from one side,” said PF&R Public Information Officer Lt. Damon Simmons.

The incident commander observed that winds were causing this fire to grow quickly and called for a second alarm, Simmons said.
Lents Station Engine 11 arrived two minutes after the alarm was sounded, and began hooking up water lines. Engine 29 from the Gilbert Station pulled in moments later and made sure all of the residents and workers were out of the building.

Mounting a long extension ladder, another firefighter climbs to the roof of the burning building.

Although it took longer than expected to arrive, a TriMet bus came to provide shelter from the bitterly cold wind. “Several residents escaped into the cold with only light clothing on, like shorts and T-shirts,” Simmons commented.

The wind made this fire difficult to extinguish, but fire crews were able to knock down most of the fire within an hour, Simmons reported. “Firefighters located the fire burning in the joist spaces between floors and within the walls.”

On the roof, at the balcony below, and in the apartment, crews work to extinguish a fire in the walls of the building.

Later in the week, PF&R Public Information Officer Lt. Rich Tyler followed up on the fire.

“The area where the fire started has been identified as within the concealed space of the first floor drop ceiling and the structural members of the second floor on the east side [back facing] of the building,” Tyler said. “The PF&R Arson Investigator can not rule out the building’s electrical system as the cause of the fire.”

After the initial attack of the fire, additional crews gather to provide additional support as needed.

At the scene, Lents Neighborhood Association President Jesse Cornett spoke briefly with East Portland News, expressing his dismay how the fire displaced neighborhood residents.

“Several people have offered them a place to stay,” Cornett remarked, while firefighters continued to ferret out flames trapped inside walls and floors, and fueled by the strong wind.

According to Cornett, local businesses – including the Eagle Eye Tavern, Zoiglhaus Brewpub, Eastport Plaza Walmart, and others, pitched in – in addition to countless neighbors.

The displaced residents of the apartments on the back of the building are finding community support.

“Now, the residents of the three apartments are faced with the next steps,” Cornett later wrote. “They all have to find a new place to live. It’s unknown if it is for weeks or months, or permanently. What is known is that housing is an immediate need – and, in a tough rental market.”

“Go-Fund-Me” site now active
Within 24 hours after the fire, neighbors set up a gofundme.com website to raise money for the burned-out neighbors. To donate: CLICK HERE and you will be directed to their page.

Ben Hurraw puts more raffle tickets into the bucket at Zoiglhaus Brewpub, sponsoring fundraising efforts for the displaced tenants of the fire-damaged building.

And, now through Sunday evening, November 29, Zoiglhaus Brewpub – located next door to the building – will donate $2 from every Radler (beer) sold. “They will also hold a raffle for a $100 gift card (for $5 a ticket),” Cornett noted. “Tickets are on sale now, and the drawing will be Sunday at 8:00 p.m. 100% of proceeds from both will go directly to help the families affected by the fire.”

> On our Front Page: PF&R Mill Park Station Truck 7 firefighters pull up roofing to attack fire in the walls of the building. Greg Muhr, PF&R photo

© 2015 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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