Bedding blaze quickly snuffed in psychiatric ward at Adventist Medical Center

See why officials praise the prompt and professional action of their staff for limiting the fire’s damage, and keeping the patients safe …

A fire alarm at a major metropolitan hospital always summons many firefighters and much apparatus, regardless of the reported size of the blaze.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Whenever automatic fire sensors and hospital staff members alert Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R)  of a fire, crews from several nearby stations drop what they’re doing and head out to battle a blaze – of any size.

At about 8:00 p.m. on October 8, such a fire call went out from Adventist Medical Center (AMC) in the Gateway area at 10123 SE Market Street.

“The fire occurred in the hospital’s Behavioral Health Unit,” reported PF&R spokesman Lt. Damon Simmons. “The fire was contained to a mattress and bedding in one room.”

To make sure this hospital fire doesn’t get out of control, firefighters lay out water lines, making they ready for use.

Fire ax in hand, a PF&R firefighter races to help at the his crew members.

While some of the 24 firefighters on-scene scrambled to hook up water lines and rev up pumps on their engines, others ventured into the smoky hallway to evacuate patients and find the source of the blaze.

But once inside, fighters found the situation under control. “Nurses put out the fire using extinguishers, while other staff evacuated patients to neighboring units of the hospital,” reported Simmons.


“Hospital staff acted quickly and efficiently to keep this fire small, while protecting the safety of patients,” Simmons commended. “After ensuring that the fire was out, and hadn’t extended, firefighters used their portable blowers to remove smoke from the building. No one was injured in the fire, and all patients are safe.”

After learning one of the psychiatric patients had slipped out of the unit, though, district patrol officers swarmed the area. “One patient escaped, but was quickly located and taken into custody by Portland Police,” added Simmons.

Firefighters prepare to enter the side door of AMC’s Behavioral Health Unit, ready to search for fire extentions.

Starting up their portable, high-power fans, firefighters begin evacuating smoke from the hospital’s hallways.

Judy Leach, Director of Marketing & Communication at AMC told us that 43 beds in their 302-bed acute-care facility are dedicated to providing psychiatric treatment – as part of a larger consortium, in partnership with Legacy Health.

“It’s Oregon’s largest Behavioral Health Unit in a private hospital,” Leach said. “This unit has at least 90% bed occupancy all of the time, which demonstrates the need for quality mental healthcare in our area.”

Whether or not a patient is free to leave the secured unit, Leach said, “Depends on the diagnosis, and how they were admitted. The unit does have security constraints designed to provide for the safety of the patients who are admitted.”

Questions remain regarding how this fire started.

About how the fire started, Leach said, “All we know is it was started by a patient; it is under investigation.”

Speaking with PF&R Public Information Officer Paul Corah before press time, he echoed, “Investigators are working to determine the cause of the fire. This fire caused approximately $500 in damage.”

We’ll update this story as more information becomes available.

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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