House full of hazards hampers firefighting efforts

See why crews who worked this Lents Neighborhood blaze had to take special precautions while working to quench it …

Making sure the water lines are full is the task of this firefighter, as crews fight a house fire in Lents.

Story and some photos by David F. Ashton
When a Lents neighbor’s call to the 9-1-1 operators brought Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) crews to a residence at 4841 SE 84th Avenue – at 10:58 a.m. on January 22 – firefighters had no idea what they’d be facing.

Lents Station Engine Company 11 arrived first, and saw thick dark smoke billowing and flames licking up from the back and side of the structure.

“They quickly made entry,” Public Information Officer Ron Rouse told East Portland News at the scene, “but had to maneuver around multiple items that were in the home. This made getting to the fire difficult.”

Firefighters contend with thick smoke and flames as they fight this residential fire.  Dick Harris, Portland Fire & Rescue photo

Just feet away from the north side of the house, firefighters saw cords of firewood stacked just a few feet from the house. “And they found a heavy ‘fire load’ on the inside – in this case lots of furniture, mattresses, books, magazines, and other items, that made it difficult access the fire.”

To complicate matters, firefighters learned from 9-1-1 dispatchers that there were also acetylene and oxygen tanks in the garage, Rouse added.

This crew is about to cut holes in the roof to vent superheated gasses, and smoke Dick Harris, Portland Fire & Rescue photo

“The fire was growing rapidly, and firefighters had to back out and fight the fire from the outside for safety reasons,” continued Rouse. “Crews had to fight it defensively, so they cut holes in walls, and knocked out windows to shoot in streams of water from outside the structure.”

Additional firefighters also quickly rolled up to the scene, including those from Station 25 in Woodstock, Mt. Tabor’s Engine 19 crew, and crews from Station 7 in Mill Park. Firefighters cut holes in the roof and opened windows to ventilate the home.

Huddling around a rescued cat, these firefighters made sure that all residents of the house had escaped the blaze.

The homeowner was away at the time of the incident, but firefighters were able to rescue a blind cat from the home.

While it was suspected that combustibles being located too close to a heat source may have been what caused the fire, PF&R Investigators have not released their findings as of this writing. Investigators did estimate the combined loss from the fire at $75,000.

“During cold weather, make sure to keep blankets, bedding, and other flammable items, well away from heaters, stoves, or fireplaces,” cautioned Rouse.

After being covered with soot and ash, this firefighter gets a wash down from a crew mate.

> Front page photo by Dick Harris, Portland Fire & Rescue

© 2013 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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