Man dies in early morning East Portland apartment fire

UPDATED: Investigators release cause of fire. Take a look, and find out why residents in this Powellhurst-Gilbert apartment complex said it could have been even more disastrous …

Flames rip through a unit of the Cascade Village Apartments in an early morning fire. Dick Harris, PF&R photo

By David F. Ashton
“Get out now!” shouted a Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) firefighter to resident Andy Mullen in the Cascade Village Apartments, during the early morning hours of July 11. Seeing flames across the hall behind the fireman, the resident quickly complied.

At 3:09am PF&R was dispatched to the fire at 2530 SE 125th Avenue in the outer East Portland neighborhood of Powellhurst-Gilbert.

Firefighters attack the blaze from inside the unit, sending water cascading out a window. Dick Harris, PF&R photo

Fire crews found heavy fire showing from the windows of a second story unit when they arrived, said PF&R Public Information Officer Lt. Rich Chatman.

“One of the 9-1-1 callers reported that she could not get out of her apartment,” Chatman said. “She was on the phone with emergency dispatchers when firefighters arrived and rescued her and her 4 year old son.”

Arriving firefighters pull additional water lines from their engine. Greg Muhr, PF&R photo

While performing search and rescue operations, the crew of Mill Park Station Truck 7 found an unconscious man inside an apartment in the eight-unit complex.

There was a working smoke alarm in the designated sleeping area in the apartment where the fire began, but Chatman said the man was sleeping in a living area instead, which is not required to have smoke alarms.

“The crew immediately carried him outside for another fire crew to begin resuscitative efforts. Unfortunately, the 50-year-old man suffered severe burn injuries, and was pronounced dead at the scene,” Chatman reported.

Because of the warm weather, two neighbors had windows open, which allowed smoke to enter their apartments, activating their smoke alarms, and alerting them to the fire early on – they then took action to activate a fire alarm pull station, alerting all the other neighbors.

Working on the roof, a truck crew prepares to cut holes for “vertical ventilation”, and to make sure all of the fire has been extinguished in the attic. Dick Harris, PF&R photo

But, while the blaze was contained to one apartment of the structure, five residents were displaced due to extensive smoke damage.

American Red Cross Cascades Region volunteers sent an eight-person Disaster Action Team to assist eight adults and one child with lodging, food, clothing, and other immediate emergency assistance as needed.

The reason for the fire that destroyed this apartment has not yet been revealed, but the results look devastating. Dick Harris, PF&R photo

“The quick response and actions of neighbors and our fire crews kept this fire from taking additional lives,” later observed PF&R Chief Erin Janssens. “Please be sure to have smoke alarms in any area you may sleep in, including an occasional nap.”

Chatman later released this statement: “The cause of this apartment fire has been determined to be abandoned/discarded smoking material.”

> On our Front Page: Firefighters stand by to put our hotspots, after this apartment fire has been extinguished. Greg Muhr, PF&R photo

© 2014 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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