Lents industrial fire quenched, repeatedly

Here why, after two different ‘2-Alarm’ fire call outs, firefighters are called a third time to extinguish a stubborn fire in an outer East Portland industrial park …

Fire rigs line the alley into this Lents neighborhood industrial park, just east of Beggars Tick Wildlife Refuge.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

After a manager of Green Earth Dispensary received a fire alert at their building in a Lents neighborhood industrial park located at 6100 SE 111th Avenue – and saw video images of smoke filling the building – the individual called the 9-1-1 Center to report a fire on December 12 at 6:38 p.m.

The first Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) unit, the crew on Lents Station Rescue 11 arrived less than four minutes later, soon followed by Station 11’s Engine company, and the Powellhurst Station Engine 29’s firefighters.

Pike Poles in hand, firefighters from Parkrose Station 2 head toward the scene of the fire.

The firefighters radioed back to the dispatcher that they’d found smoke in the industrial park, and further investigation revealed a fire in one of the metal-clad buildings, affirmed PF&R Public Information Officer Capt. Louisa Jones.

As crews worked to get hose lines to the seat of the fire, the fire burned through the roof of the building; at 6:57 p.m., the Incident Commander called a “second alarm”, bringing more rigs and firefighters to the industrial park.

After cutting a large hole in the building’s roll-up door, firefighters enter the building.

“During this incident, several challenges arose for firefighters. The first was when a fire hydrant located near the fire building failed to operate,” Jones said. “Fire crews had to backtrack and connect to a different hydrant located outside the industrial park, and stretch hose lines approximately 500 feet to the area of the fire building.”.

The second challenge occurred when a large communication line burned through and dropped to the ground. “At fire scenes, all downed wires are treated as if they were live power lines until the power company can confirm they’re de-energized and safe,” explained Jones.

Fire crews head to the back of the building, as the roof catches fire.

Fire attack crews were able to locate the fire in an interior bathroom and quickly extinguished it.

“Fire Investigators determined the fire was started by a faulty exhaust fan in the ceiling of the bathroom,” Jones informed. “The fire building contained the business offices for Green Earth Dispensary. However, there was no marijuana production or processing occurring in the fire building; it was just office space.”

At that time, the PF&R Investigator set preliminary damage estimates at $60,000 to the building and its contents.

Early the next morning, the building is once again fully involved in flames. PPB image

But, for reasons yet unexplained, on December 13 at 1:47 a.m., Portland Police Bureau East Precinct officers on patrol called their dispatcher, saying they were again seeing flames through the roof of the same building.

“On arrival firefighters found heavy fire conditions in the same building as the earlier fire,” Jones said. “Fire crews initiated a defensive attack with large master stream hose lines and worked to control embers and prevent the spread of the fire to other nearby buildings.”

This time, most of the building burned down to the ground, save a two-story, reinforced office structure located in the southwest corner of the warehouse.

“Investigators will work to determine the nature and circumstances surrounding the rekindle of the building,” said Jones.

After the building has been demolished by two fires, firefighters are called back to the scene – for the third time.

While workers in the industrial park were beginning to clear the debris of the charred warehouse building about 2:00 p.m. on December 14, lingering wisps of smoke became more dense, causing the operator of a skid steer loader to back away from the area.

Fire crews prepare their “Class-A Foam” unit that adds a surfactant to the water, allowing it to penetrate charred materials.

Again, the crews of Engine 11 and Engine 29 returned to the scene and began anew to extinguish the stubborn fire.

While the initial cause of the fire was revealed, just what it was about the fire – and the burned materials in it – that kept rekindling, and brought fire crews back to the scene two more times, remains unclear.

© 2017 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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