Brush fire threatens outer East Portland church and homes

INCLUDES VIDEO | 9 IMAGES | EXCLUSIVE STORY | See why, if it hadn’t been for a prompt and massive call-out of Portland Fire & Rescue crews, Pleasant Valley homes and lives would have been in danger …

As fire engines and ladder trucks respond to a large and threatening field fire, they park on SE Foster Road, which is then shut down to vehicles and pedestrians.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

During the steamy summer Sunday afternoon of July 16, in an area claimed by both the Pleasant Valley and the Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhoods, kids were playing around lawn sprinklers, and neighbors were mostly inside trying to stay cool.

But, as the sun was dropping lower in the auburn-colored sky, neighbors along SE 136th Avenue between Knight Street and Foster Road, became alarmed to behold smoke – and then flames – leaping up from a field behind the Pentecostal Church of God building, and other homes.

Some firefighters work behind homes along SE 136th Avenue to keep the fire from spreading to structures.

“I’m pretty sure the firemen know where to go; campers and other people have set fires in that field before,” a neighbor told East Portland News, as we were photographing the battle to control the fire.

See exclusive video of this PF&R crews putting out this brush fire:

At 5:50 p.m., Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) issued a “Box Response” dispatching six Engine Company crews from as many stations, two Ladder Truck Companies, and other support rigs to the area.

PF&R Powellhurst Station 29’s Engine Company pulls in to the rear side of the fire area, gaining direct access.

Perhaps because they all knew the area well, the first-arriving firefighters from nearby PF&R Powellhurst Station 29’s Engine Company did not set up along SE 136th Avenue, the location of the dispatch.

Instead, they went east on SE Knight Street, and then south to the dead-end of SE 138th Place. Pulling water lines through a vacant lot, they began attacking the fire.

Behind this house, crews work to put out the fire.

These firefighters spray down the yard and fence of a home near the fire.

This crew member is spraying flames that have spread dangerously close to a wooden outbuilding.

Other crews made set up to make a fire attack, parking their rigs on SE Foster Road – which was closed to all traffic – and along 136th Avenue, routing their hoses between houses.

Eventually a total of 23 PF&R engines and trucks, as well as Battalion Chiefs and the bureau’s Rehabilitation Truck, were gathered to stop this fire.

Crew members are rotated to the “Rehab” rig for rehydration, and to cool down.

Fortunately, because it was a brush blaze, firefighters weren’t required to wear their heavy “turnout” coats, and instead wore their wildland fire “Nomex” apparel.

Firefighters took turns putting out the flames in the field and outbuildings, and the fences bordering neighbors’ yards, before taking any break to rehydrate and cool off.

These firefighters are spraying a fire retardant and a wetting agent called Class A Foam.

It took about 30 minutes for crews to bring the wildfire under control. But – for hours more – they kept watch, alert for smoke and hot spots, and dousing steaming fences and singed building with flame-retarding Class A foam.

Some firefighters stayed at the fire site until after dark, making sure the flames really were completely extinguished, and cooling.

Here’s a panoramic view of this the field, after the brush fire is mostly extinguished.

The cause of this fire has not been made public by PF&R Investigators.

© 2023 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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