Four fire companies respond to Lents apartment blaze

As cool weather invades outer East Portland, there’s an important lesson to be learned from this fire. Take a look, and see what could have caused whole building to going up in flames and smoke …

Firefighters pick up pike poles and other gear needed to open up walls inside the apartment, to make sure the fire is completely out. Dick Harris, PF&R photo

By David F. Ashton
When a fire broke out at an apartment building at 3244 SE 90th Place in the Lents Neighborhood, on the morning of October 10, Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) crews headed out from their stations.

Traveling 23 blocks, the crew of Station 11 arrived first, at 8:27 a.m. and conducted searches of the smoke-filled apartment unit, according to PF&R spokesman Ron Rouse.

Engine 19 from the Mt. Tabor station, plus the truck and engine from Woodstock’s Station 25 and Mill Park’s Station 7, arrived shortly thereafter.

“The combined crews assisted with fire suppression and venting the structure of smoke,” Rouse reported.

An Engine 11 firefighter emerges from the unit, after putting out the fire there. Dick Harris, PF&R photo

An ambulance was also dispatched to check on a patient for smoke inhalation.

“The fire was primarily contained to the bathroom of the unit,” added Rouse. “Firefighters had to open up the walls with their axes to makes sure that the fire didn’t spread.”

Bystanders looking at the efforts involved in this outer East Portland blaze wondered aloud why so many fire crews responded to a relatively small fire.

We later put this question to PF&R Lt. Michael Silva. “We send out a large response to any apartment building fire, because we don’t know what we have until we get there.
“Apartment buildings are larger than a single family residence, meaning there are more spaces in which fire can travel,” Silva added. “So, even if it’s reported to be a small fire, we need to make sure we’re equipped to rescue people from toxic gas, smoke, and fire – and simultaneously extinguish the fire.”

Crews pack up equipment after what turned out to be a relatively small fire. Dick Harris, PF&R photo

And, Silva continued, fighting a fire is more than pulling in a hose and squirting water. “We need crews on the roof, cutting holes for vertical ventilation; firefighters inside, putting out the fire; other crews evacuating residents – and still others, the paramedic/firefighters, to provide medical assistance.”

Damage from this particular fire was set at a $20,000 combined loss to content and structure.

Heater ignites clothing
A fire investigator found a pile of charred clothing next to a wall heater and quickly determined the cause: “Combustibles too close to a heat source”.

As winter weather sets in, and temperature dips, Silva told East Portland News that the fire bureau sees an increase of fires started by this cause.

“Take a few minutes and check to make sure clothing, bedding, pillows, furniture – anything than can burn – has been removed from space heaters, baseboard heaters and other heating sources.”

© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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