People, pets flee Powell Avenue apartment fire

See why it wasn’t easy for firefighters to reach the fire, and why this fire – of as-yet undetermined origins – frightened the displaced residents …

An arriving crew of firefighters check their gear before heading in to fight the fire. Greg Muhr, Portland Fire & Rescue photo

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
When fire broke out at 9:28 a.m. on April 30 at the Trails End Apartments located at 11860 SE Powell Boulevard, Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) crews from Mill Park Station 7 rolled up into the narrow “flag lot” driveway.

“Coming on-scene just three minutes after the call,” reported PF&R Public Information Officer Paul Corah, “crews could see a large amount of fire coming from the back of the apartment building. The crew of Engine 7 immediately pulled a hose line, and went to the top floor (3rd floor) to extinguish the flames.”

From inside the apartment building – and on the roof – firefighters attack the fire. Greg Muhr, Portland Fire & Rescue photo

“It was really crazy,” said a resident who declined to give her name. “It was really scary. All we saw was smoke and then some fire – lots of smoke.”

Jim Dunford, a neighbor, told East Portland News, “I was out for a walk and saw the smoke coming out. It’s was just massive; I’ve never seen anything like it. After that plume of smoke, then came flames.”

Two Portland Fire & Rescue Battalion Chiefs head up to inspect progress with the firefight.

Other neighbors said residents’ pets ran – some jumped out windows – to escape the fire and smoke.

Firefighters encountered fire that had burned out the back of the building on the second floor, and lapped up and re-entered the building on the third floor, Corah later explained.

“Additional hose lines were deployed, and fire crews aggressively attacked the blaze on both floors. The crew from [ladder] Truck 7 went directly to the roof to cut ventilation holes, in order to remove the fire and smoke from the attic, and improve conditions for fire crews on the inside. While attacking this blaze, fire crews searched each unit to make sure all the occupants had escaped.”

Inside the window, the charred apartment is illuminated only by the ventilation holes cut in the roof.

Because of the extent of the blaze, Corah said, Battalion Chiefs called a second alarm at 9:41 am to bring additional fire crews to assist in the firefighting efforts.
“Fortunately, everyone escaped safely, and there were no victims in this fire,” added Corah. “However, a number of people have been displaced, and the Red Cross is on-scene assisting them in finding alternate housing.”

A firefighter starts the long task of repacking water lines into a truck.

About the pets – firefighters did rescue five cats and two dogs from the fire and successfully returned them to their owners, including two missing Chihuahuas firefighters found, one hiding under a blanket the other in its kennel. “All of them were returned safely to their owners,” Corah said.

Damages have been set at $235,000 dollars, Corah added. “The fire remains under investigation.”

Firefighters and command staff debrief, after the fire has been extinguished.

© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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