Exploding aerosol cans startle Centennial neighbors during pre-dawn house fire

Read an exclusive interview with a woman who helped her relative and great grandson escape this inferno …

Firefighters found this house fully involved in fire when they arrive. Dick Harris, PF&R photo

By David F. Ashton
The early morning events of March 5 will stay with her “the rest of her days” Grace Velmere told East Portland News just hours after she escaped from a blaze that engulfed the home in which she was staying at 2111 SE 154th Ave. in outer East Portland’s Centennial Neighborhood.

“The house started to fill with smoke,” Velmere began. “It wasn’t too bad at first. Then, quickly, really dark, hot smoke started filling up the hallway and the living room. All I knew was I had to get out – and make sure that my elderly relative and her great grandson also got out OK.”

Flames rip through the house as firefighters prepare to quench the blaze. Dick Harris, PF&R photo

In fact, she added they’d all made their escape before firefighters arrived.

She, also, heard the “pop-pop-pop” sounds of something exploding, Velmere said – as did many neighbors who called 91-1 to report the house fire, accompanied by explosions.

The crew from Portland Fire & Rescue (PFR)’s Rockwood Station 31 rolled up to the fire at 6:36 a.m., pulled hose lines and began aggressively attacking the large amount of fire coming from all sides of the house, said PF&R spokesman A.J. Schaffer.

The fire reaches the “flash-over” point – the temperature at which all burnable materials are consumed as fuel for the blaze. Dick Harris, PF&R photo

“The truck crew from Station 7 climbed to the roof of the home and used ventilation saws to assist in removing smoke, heat and fire gasses from the building,” Schaffer said. “Other crew members performed a search to assure there were no victims inside.”

Schaffer confirmed that one of occupants was an elderly women who is uninjured but was transported to the hospital because she was without her supplemental oxygen.

The fire was brought under control at 7:26 a.m. “The fire cause is still under investigation,” Schaffer later reported, “but it was discovered that the explosions were caused by aerosol cans.”

The devastation caused by this fire becomes clear, when seen in the light of day. David F. Ashton, East Portland News photo

Investigators determined that the structure is valued at $75,000 with a structural loss of $10,000; the contents, valued at $20,000 sustained a $10,000 loss.

After the fire, Schaffer said their bureau encourages folks to get to know their neighbors. “In case of fire, It is important for fire crews to know if occupants are elderly or handicapped and may be immobile. Your information can save lives.”

By the way, Portland Fire & Rescue Station 31 unique, because it is staffed on different 24-hours shifts by crews from PF&R and Gresham Fire & Emergency Services. To see our story about this newly-reopened station, CLICK HERE.

© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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