NE condo fire ‘could have been much worse’

Firefighter’s fast response ‚Äì and solid construction ‚Äì keeps new condos at NE 84th Ave. and Russell from burning up in a fiery ball of death ‚Ķ

By the time we arrived, minutes after it was reported, Portland Fire & Rescue Engine 12, with assistance from the crew from Station 2, start to clean up their gear.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Crews from Portland Fire & Rescue race into action when a multi-family dwelling catches on fire. They know a small fire can quickly turn into a major conflagration – especially when it is fueled by burning vehicle parked in a garage below the living area.

When the call came in about 5:30 p.m. on September 29, crews from three fire stations raced to newly-constructed, occupied condominiums located east of Nelson’s Nautilus at NE 84th Ave. and Russell St.

The owner of the garage to the right of the burned unit belongs to Pat Tilman, who was home at the time of the blaze, and said the fire could have been worse.

His building on fire
Pat Tilman owns a condo unit, next to the unit where the fire was reported. “I heard someone yelling that there was a fire,” he told us as we stood in the alley behind the beige siding-clad, two-story building.

“I heard fire engines coming. I came outside and realized the fire was in my building. Before I got to the back of my unit, the firefighters were already putting out the fire in the garage next to mine, and starting to chop my garage door open. I told them I could save them time by opening it for them.”

The fire was out; firefighters were clearing everything out of the burned unit next to Tilman’s. “It could have been worse,” he mused.

Firewalls save homes, lives
“We have a rows of condominiums joined together,” is how Portland Fire & Rescue Battalion Commander Dave Disciascio described the situation.

A fire bureau investigator looks over the burned car that was suspected to be the cause of the blaze.

“On the bottom floor, along the alley, we have single car garages. These garages are built with one-hour firewalls. This was a real good thing.”

Although fire investigators have yet to release a report, Disciascio told us it looked as if a car in one of those garages ‚Äì the one next to Tilman’s unit ‚Äì started on fire. “It pretty much burned up the car. But, the fire didn’t extend because of the firewall.”

Had it not been for the one-hour rated firewall, the battalion chief said, the fire would have been a tragedy, instead of an inconvenience.

Apartment and condo units built some years ago weren’t required to line the walls of their garages or parking spaces with firewalls. “If this fire, fueled by a burning car, would have started in an old building, we’d still be fighting it, and the blaze would be awfully spectacular, and perhaps deadly.  This fire is inconvenient ‚Äì it could have been tragic.”

¬©  2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

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