Woman dies in ‘converted van’ fire in Argay Terrace

Here’s why officials say the cold weather likely led to the death of a woman in a van that was converted into living quarters …

Drawing water from the engine’s 500 gallon onboard tank, firefighters begin to attack the fire in a parked van.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

A fire on Saturday, February 25, in box truck took Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) firefighters to the northeast edge of the Argay Terrace neighborhood at NE 138th Avenue and Jarrett Way, near Marine Drive ,at 3:30 a.m., on that frigid Saturday morning.

There they found a delivery truck completely engulfed in flames. Using water from the engine’s 500 gallon tank, the crew opened the back of the truck and began to spray water onto the flames from outside.

Firefighters stand by after the blaze has been substantially extinguished.

“The crew used all of water from the engine’s tank, and had much of the fire extinguished; at which point the rig’s engineer replenished the tank from a fire hydrant,” a PF&R official stated.

After the incinerated box truck cooled enough, crews entered it and encountered more active fire inside – as well as extreme clutter – a challenge in completely extinguishing the blaze.

“With some hot spots still flaring up, and the entire vehicle steaming from the fire heat, the crew searched the interior and the exterior of the truck with flashlights, and attempted to separate multiple objects amidst the clutter that had melted together to form a large singular mass of burnt objects,” the Fire Bureau spokesperson said.

A deceased woman was later found, buried under debris in this burned out delivery truck, which apparently was being used as housing. PF&R image

Afterward, the firefighters discovered that this modified delivery truck had been using makeshift heating sources, and they located discarded smoking materials inside as well.

“The co-owner of the vehicle returned to the site on March 1, and discovered a body under the fire debris,” the PF&R spokesperson later reported. “This led to the Portland Police Bureau becoming involved, as well as the Bureau’s Fire Investigation Team. The cause of the victim’s death is under investigation by the County Medical Examiner’s office.”

On March 2nd, PF&R revealed, “This fire resulted in the death of a 38-year-old female; and the cause of the fire is still under investigation.”

© 2023 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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