Couple leaps from upstairs window, escaping smoky blaze

The results of this early morning fire could have been much, much worse. Find out just why firefighters say this story ended better than some do …

-1 A woman, then a man, jumped from the second-story bedroom window to escape a raging, smoky fire in the house.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The four residents of a small home in the area on the border between the Lents and Woodstock neighborhoods, on SE 84th Avenue near SE Ramona Street, got a rude awakening at 6:00 a.m. on June 30. They found their house ablaze.

Firefighters from Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) Engine Company 11, nearby on SE 92nd Avenue, raced to the scene minutes later – arriving with thick, black smoke billowing from the windows of the home.

Firefighters create “vertical ventilation” by cutting open the roof – making sure the fire in the attic has been extinguished. PF&R photo

As the crew of Truck 25 rolled in, those firefighters said they saw an unusual sight – a woman jumping out of the second-story window into the bushes below. Uninjured, she rushed around the house, grabbed an old mattress and put it on the bushes. Her unclothed boyfriend then leapt from the window too.

Some firefighters started pulling hose lines while others started making an initial search of the house.

A firefighter from Engine 11 passes a water line to crewmembers working in the back of the home.

“Two other occupants were downstairs at the time of the fire,” reported PF&R spokesman Paul Corah. “A 52-year-old female, who requires the use of a walker, was able to evacuate safely on her own. A neighbor helped an 83-year-old female out of the home.”

The fire was brought under control at 6:27am.  “Firefighters were challenged because of an excessive amount of contents in the home,” the Fire Bureau spokesman pointed out.

Working in the upper bedroom, fire bureau investigator starts looking for what caused and may have contributed to the blaze.

The two individuals sleeping in the upstairs bedroom when the fire broke out, said Corah, were alerted by working smoke alarms. “Again, especially in this case, smoke alarms save lives. But, we don’t recommend people jumping out of windows,” he cautioned. “If possible, it’s best to stay at or just outside the window and wait for assistance.”

We checked back just before publication, and Corah said fire investigators had not yet determined the fire’s cause, but the damage estimate was placed at $40,000.

American Red Cross volunteers assist the occupants displaced by this fire, and help them find alternate living arrangements.

Members of the Disaster Action Team of the American Red Cross Willamette Chapter responded to the scene and assisted the residents with lodging, food, clothing, and other immediate needs.
“We can’t send this message too often,” Corah told us. “Working smoke alarms significantly increase your chances of surviving a fire. Make sure that every sleeping area in your home has a working smoke alarm.”

Firefighters from PF&R Station House 11 in Lents take a break after extinguishing the fire – and before they start hauling out burned debris.

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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