Johnson Creek area Precision Castparts plant damaged by 2-alarm blaze

Folks came from miles around, drawn to the dark plume of smoke that arose from the fire said to have caused $400,000 in damages to the plant. Read how the fire started, and see exclusive photos, right here …

Between blasts of water from multiple hoses, firefighters peer through smoke and steam to check their progress fighting the fire in the plant’s Wax Room.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
For a mile surrounding the intersection of SE Harney Dr. and SE Johnson Creek Blvd., traffic is at a standstill about 1:30 p.m. on September 8. A plume of thick, black smoke indicates a major fire is the reason the roads are closed.

Walking up Harney Dr. to the scene of the fire at Precision Castparts, we pass neighbor Chris Johnson as he works in his yard. “I looked up and saw plume of smoke coming up from the far side of the plant,” Johnson tells us. “Then there was a big explosion and the smoke turned thick and dark.”

Along the way, we walk with another area resident, Myra Kelsey. “I didn’t see it, but I sure did hear a big boom from blocks away,” she says. “I looked over and saw a big cloud of black smoke; I’m worried that the smoke might be toxic.”

Walking past the command truck, we overhear the Battalion Chief say on his two-way radio, “Even with fighting the fire from the inside, we may have to open the roof and put more water on it from the outside.”

Firefighters say they were concerned that the blaze might touch off a wildfire on the steep terrain surrounding the Precision Castparts plant.

The industrial fire, said to have started accidentally during a cleaning operation in the “wax room” located on the plant’s east side, burned so hot, it touched off the tinder-dry brush on the steep hillside leading up to a parking lot.

“Firefighters recognized the potential for a fast spreading brush fire on this hot day,” says Portland Fire & Rescue spokesman Lt. Doug Jones. “Firefighters quickly attacked the fire from multiple directions while other firefighters began fire suppression efforts in the involved building fire.”

Equipment from eleven stations responded to the two-alarm industrial fire.

Approximately 60 firefighters, responding from eleven stations, stay on scene for hours. Eventually, they start disconnecting their lines, and rolling up thousands of feet of fire hose.

No injuries were reported by either company workers or firefighters in this blaze that reportedly caused $400,000 in damages to one building.

After the fire was brought under control, firefighters were faced with draining and repacking thousands of feet of fire hose on this hot, sunny afternoon.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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