House ‘electrical problem’ erupts into inferno

Even though this fire burned out the residents of their Brentwood-Darlington house, find out why officials say it could have been much, much worse …

Smoke billows from the house while firefighters work to contain the blaze.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Across the street from the burning house, a tearful, sobbing woman clutched a man as he and the neighbors watched Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) crews work to extinguish a fire that was gutting a Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood house. It happened on the evening of February 13.

A little after 5:00 p.m., the crew of PF&R Engine 11 in Lents was dispatched to a residence at 7440 SE Rural Street to investigate the report of an electrical fire.

“But, as they approached the address, they discovered a large column of smoke in the area,” reported PF&R Public Information Officer Lt. Rich Chatman.

Firefighters’ flashlights light up the interior of this home while they seek out additional hotspots.

“It was upgraded from an electrical problem to a residential fire,” Chatman added. “When Engine 11 arrived at the residence, the crew found the garage and rear portion of the residence on fire.”

While crewmembers pulled hose lines to begin an interior fire attack, additional firefighters arrived, including those from Woodstock Station 25, who searched for victims.

After cutting a vertical ventilation hole in the roof, a firefighter looks down into the structure’s attic.

“Truck 25’s crew laddered up to the roof of the residence and used chain saws to provide ventilation for the heat and smoke below, so that interior crews could operate more effectively.”

Other firefighters used additional water lines to hose down and protect nearby structures.

Volunteers from the American Red Cross, Oregon Region, responded, assisting two adults displaced by the fire with food, clothing, and lodging.

“A fire investigator determined that fire had been started from arcing at an electric panel in the garage,” Chatman later reported. “The damage estimate was set at $50,000 to structure and contents. No injuries were reported.”

From above and below, firefighters continue to extinguish hot spots.

Had the fire been late at night, the outcome might have been deadly, Chatman observed. “There were no operating smoke detectors in the garage. Smoke detectors can be a critical life-saving component of your home.”

© 2013 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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