An exploding RV sets two homes ablaze

Learn why commanders called a ‘Second Alarm’ for this outer East Portland fire that broke out in the Centennial  neighborhood . . .

After cutting holes in the roof to let hot gasses escape at this Centennial neighborhood blaze, firefighters step back – as the flames leap up past them. Lt. Rich Chatman, PF&R image

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

A small fire quickly grew, setting the two homes at 15506 and 15522 SE Taggart Street ablaze. The fire alarm was called in at 8:43 a.m. on July 23.

The first crew arriving was Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) Mill Park Station 7’s Engine Company; they reported back to dispatch seeing a “header” of smoke as they approached the fire on SE Division Street.

As the carport collapses, flames shoot up from “vertical ventilation” openings made in the roof by firefighters on the adjoining house. Lt. Rich Chatman, PF&R image

“Witnesses said the fire was extending from some kind of RV parked under a carport-like covering between the two homes,” said PF&R Public Information officer Lt. Rich Chatman.

“Fire spread quickly from both sides of the carport, igniting the facing sides of the nearby structures,” Chatman told East Portland News.

Noticing increasing smoke from scattered live embers, crews douse the side of the house with more water.

“While firefighters began putting water on the fire, other crews went into the homes to make sure all were evacuated,” Chatman said. “One residence was not occupied; residents at the other house said their smoke alarms went off, and they also safely evacuated.”

A few minutes into the incident, Chatman said that the Incident Commander called for a “Second Alarm”, which brings additional apparatus – and just as importantly, additional crew – to fight the fire, including units from Gresham Fire, which provided “mutual aid” to Portland Fire crews.

Coming to the aid of Portland Fire crews are those from Gresham Fire stations.

Ladder Truck crew members laddered up to the roofs of both houses, and began cutting holes for “vertical ventilation” of the roiling combustive gasses – stepping back when flames exploded up through the new openings.

“There is a relatively high level of hazards that the crews deal with, including holes in floors, weakened decks, power lines,” Chatman pointed out.

The fire having raged through the second story of this home, a firefighter pitches a burned ceiling fan from the window.

Even after the body of the fire was extinguished in both buildings, firefighters remained at the scene, hosing down hot spots and removing glowing embers.

“It’s true, working smoke and fire alarms do save lives; they may have done so here, today,” Chatman commented.

A fire, which started in the driveway, substantially damages the homes on either side of it.

© 2019 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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