Garage blaze torches Montavilla home

See why firefighters say they “had their hands full” as they battled flames in two structures at the same time …

Perched precariously on the roof of the burning home, amid flames shooting high into the night sky, firefighters prepare to attack the blaze. Desmond Moore photo

By David F. Ashton
Calls to 9-1-1 came pouring in reporting a detached garage afire in Montavilla at 930 NE 70th Avenue, on May 12 at 12:21 a.m. But – when Portland Fire & Rescue’s (PF&R) Truck 19 crew rolled up to the scene four minutes later – it was clear they’d be fighting two structure fires, not one.

“Firefighters found a detached garage engulfed in flames,” reported PF&R spokesman Lt. Damon Simmons. “But, the fire had also extended to the nearby home’s attic.”

Working on the roof, and also inside the garage, crews look for hotspots after the fire was extinguished. Desmond Moore photo

As they always do, some crew members first made sure all occupants are out safely while others began attacking the fires. “Firefighters with Mill Park’s Truck 7 soon came on-scene, and began opening up the ceiling inside the house to gain access to the fire.”

Having two buildings ablaze simultaneously, Simmons observed, adds additional complexity to a situation, because Battalion Chiefs must constantly reevaluate priorities and strategy during the firefighting effort.

The occupants were safe – including this woman and her dog – but they were nonetheless displaced by the fire. Desmond Moore photo

Both fires were declared under control at 12:47 a.m., but firefighters stayed on-scene for hours, while they shifted into “overhaul” mode – sorting through fire debris, looking for any remaining hot spots that could reignite. “Often, during this process,” Simmons said, “portions of the structure have to be cut away, because they pose a collapse danger, or block access to fire embers.”
The American Red Cross assisted the occupants to find shelter, because the home was declared uninhabitable.

“No one was injured by this fire,” Simmons concluded. “The cause remains undetermined; damages are estimated at $50,000.”

Their job completed, firefighters ladder down from the roof of the burned home. PF&R photo

© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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