PF&R crews race to multiple fires over three days

See where Portland Fire & Rescue firefighters were being dispatched, as fires – one of them a 2-Alarm blaze – broke out …

At one of the blazes, firefighters help one another switch out air tanks on their backpacks.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

During two days in the past week, November 24 and November 27, Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) crews were kept on the run with fire calls – in addition to the medical dispatches to which they routinely respond every day.

Two calls in two minutes, one block apart
Two dispatches, on either side of SE Division Street, activated 58 members of PF&R to this area of SE Portland that borders the Powellhurst-Gilbert and Montavilla neighborhoods.

November 24
Powellhurst-Gilbert house kitchen fire

Just south of Division Street, crews arrive on SE 87th Avenue to put out residential fire in a kitchen. PF&R image

The first fire, dispatched at 12:37 p.m., was reportedly a residential kitchen fire in the 2600 block of SE 87th Avenue, between Division and Clinton Streets.

Arriving at the 1½-story home with a basement, crews reported heavy smoke pushing out from the back of the home, and the front door that left ajar. All occupants had safely evacuated the house, firefighters learned.

Crews suppressed the main body of fire in the kitchen area, and then quickly extinguished the blaze.

Firefighters open holes in the roof for “vertical ventilation” – to allow hot combustible gasses to escape from the attic. PF&R image

“There was some concern that the fire had extended upward into the living space over the kitchen and unoccupied attic space area,” a PF&R official said. Crews pulled down ceilings and opened walls to make sure no hidden fire remained. “All seven residents of this three-generational family are uninjured, but will be displaced until the home is again tenable.”

November 24
Montavilla restaurant fire alarm

Across SE Division Street, PF&R crews respond to a lire alarm in a restaurant. PF&R image

Then, at 12:39 p.m., while crews were still actively working on the residential fire, a second fire alarm dispatched four Engine Companies, two Ladder Truck Companies, and two Battalion Chiefs to the Excellent Cuisine restaurant in King Plaza, only 300\ feet away from the house fire.

The restaurant, in the 9700 block of SE Division Street, had an activated sprinkler system sending an automatic alarm to the 9-1-1 Dispatch Command Center.

However, crews found no fire, just a broken sprinkler head in the kitchen. Firefighters packed up and headed back to their respective stations.

Back-to-back fires on windy night

Wind-whipped fires on Monday evening, November 27, in both the Brentwood-Darlington and the Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhoods, brought out most of the firefighters from nearby stations. At one point, four separate structures were ablaze.

November 27
A two-alarm blaze chars Brentwood-Darlington homes

Firefighters scramble getting water on fires burning in two houses and a detached garage.

The evening started when a call-taker at the 9-1-1 Center received one or more calls about fire near SE Duke Street and 66th Avenue. The exact address was unknown, and the caller was uncertain if the fire was in the detached garage; or if both a garage and house were on fire. Nevertheless, PF&R crews were dispatched to the general location at 8:35 p.m.

Minutes later, PF&R Woodstock Station 25’s Engine Company pulled into the area and found a house burning at 6534 SE 66th Avenue. A crew member reported back to dispatchers, “significant fire activity showing on the two sides of the structure”.

The house next door was also on fire, with flames mostly on the backside of the structure, crews reported. A steady wind had pushed the fire from one home to the next.

More and more PF&R crew members are called in to keep the wind-whipped fire from spreading.

Firefighters scrambled, quickly getting water line hoses pressurized to start fighting the fires. Other crew members began searching inside for potential victims. “There were reports that an elderly female could still be inside [the first house on fire],” a PF&R official told reporters at the scene.

Adults, some wrapped in blankets, who appeared to have been residents from the burning houses, were seen wheeling a large, covered metal pet cage north on SE 66th Avenue, toward Duke Street.

Up on the roof of a house, more crew members work to put out the fire.

Sizing up the situation, Battalion Chiefs realized that, in addition to the two houses, a large detached garage was also burning – and he called for a “Second Alarm” – bringing in a total of 29 rigs and 50 firefighters.. Also providing “mutual aid” were firefighters with Clackamas Fire District #1.

With firefighters working inside, outside, and on the roofs of the houses and garages, most of the fire had been extinguished in the homes after about ten minutes. However, crews co0ntuinued at work for hours, putting out hotspots and cleaning up.

A total of five adults were displaced from the two residences.

This fire is currently under investigation.

November 27
Campers blamed for fire in Powellhurst-Gilbert

Only one fire engine was needed to put out this outer East Portland fire.

Then, at 8:58 p.m. another residential fire was dispatched by Portland BOEC to SE 122nd Avenue at Rhone Street – just south of the Safeway parking lot.

Three available PF&R units were directed to that fire. However, the first arriving engine was from the Gresham Fire Department, coming from the border of Portland and Gresham.

That crew reported a small external fire; that rig’s incident commander said that they were putting it out with their on-board water supply and “Booster” hose. Other responders were cancelled from that incident.

Neighbors said that a warming fire set by campers on SE Rhone Street had probably sparked that one.

© 2023 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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