Two fires, in two nights, provide two life-saving lessons

See why officials say these two costly and dangerous blazes could have been avoided – and what you can learn from other families’ misfortune …

Flames leap from this outer East Portland apartment building on SE Powell Blvd. in the dark and cold of night.

Story by David F. Ashton; photos by Dick Harris, Portland Fire & Rescue
When an apartment building catches on fire, especially at night when people are sleeping, the professional crews of Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) know that extinguishing the blaze quickly is the key to keeping many families in their residences – and even saving lives.

Portland firefighters responded to reports of smoke and flames coming units at the Shalamar Apartments at 13746 SE Powell Blvd. in the wee hours of October 25 at 1:32 a.m.

“Arriving firefighters arrived encountered flames pouring from a ground floor apartment unit that had spread to the second story and attic,” reported PF&R spokesman Anthony Schaffer. “Due to the fire’s size and extension to the apartment building’s attic space, the Incident Commander called for a second alarm at 1:45 a.m., bringing additional firefighters and equipment to the scene to attack the blaze.”

Smoke pours from both the lower unit – where the fire was said to start – and the upper unit of this Powellhurst Gilbert Neighborhood apartment building.

While ladder truck crews advanced to the roof to attack the fire and open the roof to release heat and smoke, engine crews aggressively advanced on the blaze from the ground and searched each unit to make sure all occupants had safely escaped.

The fire was brought under control at 1:59 a.m., Schaffer told us. “Fortunately everyone escaped this fire safely.”

However, three apartment units sustained fire damage and four individuals – including a 5-year old boy – as and two cats were displaced from their apartment. “Additional reports indicate that a 3-year-old child suffered smoke inhalation from the fire.  The child was treated at the scene by Portland firefighter/paramedics and did not necessitate transport to a hospital.”

The Disaster Action Team volunteers from the Oregon Trail Chapter of the American Red Cross responded to a two unit apartment fire, said their organization’s spokesman Thomas Traver. “We’re here providing temporary lodging, food, clothing and other immediate needs.”

Everyone involved in this early morning blaze escape safely, officials say. But fire officials say this fire was caused by a young resident.

Fire set by child, investigators say
“Fire Investigators have determined that this fire in SE Portland was caused by a youth-occupant with an open flame heat source,” is what Schaffer later said about the fire that caused at least $65,000 in damages.

“Portland Fire reminds citizens that it is not uncommon for children to misuse fire. Without the right knowledge, kids can make errors that can lead to tragic results.”

For information about the PF&R’s Youth Firesetting Program, contact it’s manager at (503) 823-3806 or see their webpage: CLICK HERE.

‘Careless Smoking’ torches Hazelwood home

PF&R photographer Dick Harris finds a major confabulation when he reaches the scene of this Hazelwood Neighborhood fire.

Only 25 hours after the apartment fire, it only took PF&R crews four minutes to race to a fore at 702 NE 125th Avenue, arriving at 2:25 a.m. answering calls that a house, and trees, were on fire.

“As we came around the corner and saw the amount of fire, we knew we had to act quickly to make sure no one was inside,” said PF&R Firefighter Matt Slosser. “Fortunately the occupants escaped the fire safely.”

Flames shoot into the night sky as firefighters douse the blaze using multiple hose lines.

Crews encountered heavy fire from the exterior of the building, PF&R spokesman Schaffer reported, extending into the eves and attic space. “Fire crews aggressively attacked the flames on the outside of the structure and then entered to check for any fire extension into the interior of the house.”

While some crew members pulled a hose line to each side of the house to protect the homes on either side from catching on fire, others were sent to the roof to cut a hole to ventilate the heat, smoke and fire gasses, Schaffer added.

“Once inside, about six minutes after they arrived, crews noticed that the ceiling was sagging and backed out as some of the rafters collapsed. The crew notified command of the partial collapse,” Schaffer said adding that the “safety” officer made sure all firefighters were accounted for.

Working around the collapsing attic, firefighters brought blaze under control at 3:01a.m.

Crews are pulled out of the home as the roof starts to collapse.

‘Careless Smoking’ blamed for fire
The fire displaced a man and woman; The Disaster Action Team volunteers from the Oregon Trail Chapter of the American Red Cross assisted them with finding alternate housing.

“While it’s fortunate that there were no injuries in this fire,” Schaffer later told us, told us that PF&R investigators determined that the cause of this morning’s fire in NE Portland was caused by careless smoking. The total damage is estimated at $50,000. We remind citizens to always dispose of cigarettes in a proper container whenever smoking.”

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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