Citizen sounds alarm for early morning house fire

Find out why police took interest in this Montavilla neighborhood blaze …

Smoke and flames shoot into the night sky, as firefighters arrive at the Montavilla home. Dick Harris, PF&R photo

By David F. Ashton
At a time when most people are asleep, a man driving to work at 4:08 a.m. saw flames leaping from the front of a house at 9119 SE Lincoln Street, near Harrison Park, in Montavilla neighborhood.

He called 9-1-1 Dispatch and reported the fire, then made certain that the three residents of the home made their way safely outside the now-blazing dwelling.

Flames leap from the attic windows, as firefighters charge their hose lines with water and prepare to fight the fire. Dick Harris, PF&R photo

When the first Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) unit rolled up, they called in their “size up” of the situation, reporting that flames were showing from an attic window of the single-story bungalow.

“A greenhouse was attached to the structure of the home,” said PF&R spokesperson Tommy Schroeder. “This presented challenges, because we treated the greenhouse as an additional exposure, and fire hazard.”

A greenhouse – later discovered to be a licensed marijuana growing operation – provides firefighters additional challenges. Dick Harris, PF&R photo

Crews cut holes in the roof, providing vertical ventilation. Dick Harris, PF&R photo

While some firefighters fought the fire from inside the burning house, a Truck company laddered up the roof, and cut holes for “vertical ventilation”, to allow superheated gases and smoke to exit the attic.

“PF&R Fire Investigators have determined the cause of the fire to be electrical in nature, and that the fire originated in the porch light,” Schroeder later reported. “The fire then extended to the interior on the second floor.”

Damage is estimated at $120,000 – a total loss; $100,000 structural and $20,000 for the contents.

As crews “overhaul” the attic, they dump still-burning material out of the attic window. Dick Harris, PF&R photo

“One occupant stated that it was the crackling of the fire that woke him up initially,” Schroeder said. “The smoke detectors were operating properly, as well.”

Reports of the strong smell of marijuana were reported in the area, said to be from a legal marijuana growing operation in the adjacent greenhouse.

Law enforcement officials told reporters that, while licensed, the operation may be considered illegal, because under the state’s medical marijuana program, the number of plants found (ninety) considerably exceeded the legally-allowed quantity.

Shining their lights down through holes in the roof, firefighters look for remaining embers. Dick Harris, PF&R photo

© 2014 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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