Fires kill two people, in two fires, 15 hours apart

An apartment fire may have been intentionally set; the blaze in the camper appears to have been an accident, officials say …

Portland Fire & Rescue apparatus blocks SE 72nd Avenue, as firefighters work to extinguish a blaze – perhaps intentionally set – in an apartment. 

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Two fires each took the life of an individual – one, midday, on February 15, in an East Portland apartment complex – and another very early fire on February 16, in a motor home, further east in the Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood.

Woman perishes in apartment fire
An apartment fire proved deadly, late in the morning of February 15, in the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood on 72nd Avenue, just south of SE Cooper Street.

Callers to the 9-1-1 Center reported hearing explosions and seeing fire from an individually addressed unit at 6844 SE 72nd Avenue – the second of four units on the north side of an unnamed apartment complex – bringing numerous Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) apparatus and firefighters at 11:16 a.m. that morning.

Minutes later, three fire trucks arrived at the location, including both the PF&R Woodstock Station 25’s Engine and Ladder Truck Companies of firefighters.

Engine 25 radioed to dispatchers seeing, “Fire showing from the back side of the apartment building”, as they pulled up to the scene. While the crew of the Engine 25 began hooking up water lines, firefighters from Ladder Truck 25 began searching both the burning apartment, and those adjacent, for potential victims.

At the back of the apartment units, firefighters keep watch for fire flare-ups, near where the blaze killed one resident.

Twelve other fire rigs pulled up along SE 72nd Avenue. Some of those firefighters searched nearby, and potentially affected, apartments a second time to look for victims, but found none.

Alarm tones warbled on the crews’ communicators, following by the announcement that the roof had collapsed into the apartment where the fire was thought to have started.

After a firefighter reported finding a deceased victim in that particular unit, crews were eventually joined by four PF&R Investigators.

This firefighter stands near the caved-in roof, making sure the fire doesn’t spread.

“There were multiple reports that there might have been a child trapped inside,” PF&R Public Information Officer Lt. Rich Chatman later told East Portland News. “Crew members made a very complete search of all three affected units; we eventually accounted for the child, and other residents, outside.

“One female was found deceased in [the burned] unit, unfortunately,” announced Chatman.

One of four PF&R Investigators walks into the apartment complex, as the inquiry into this fire gets underway.

Although unconfirmed, reportedly the victim was 49 years old, was said to be experiencing a mental health crisis, and is believed to have intentionally set the fatal fire that eventually caused small propane tanks in the apartment to explode.

Firefighters were at the apartments for hours, as were investigators – combing through the ashes and rubble. All surviving residents of the four-plex were displaced, because fire had burned through the attics and into all the other units.

“It’s a difficult time for the residents here,” Chatman confirmed.

Powellhurst-Gilbert RV fire kills resident, dog

Two fire units block the street, as they work to put out a blaze in a parked recreational vehicle which was being used as housing.

In the early hours of February 16, residents of the Shalamar Apartments reported a rapidly-growing fire in a van-style RV parked behind their apartment building. Although this complex faces SE Powell Boulevard, the flaming camper was parked a block south, on SE Rhine Street.

9-1-1 Center operators dispatched both PF&R Mill Park Station 7’s Engine and Ladder Truck to the reported fire at 1:56 a.m., records show.

Even though the fire in camper was quickly extinguished, a person residing therein, and a dog, were found dead inside. Courtesy of KATU-TV News

“One adult occupant had made it out of the RV with minor smoke inhalation injuries,” said PF&R’s Lt. Chatman. “The other adult occupant, and a 100-lb Mastiff dog, were discovered inside the van and declared deceased, after the fire was extinguished.”

A PF&R investigator was called to the scene, and determined that the cause of the fire was the “improper use of a propane heater” that was being used to keep the RV occupants warm, according to Chatman.

© 2021 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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