‘Zombie flop house’ again bursts into flames in Powellhurst-Gilbert

See why officials hope that the damage was great enough this time, to the derelict double-wide, that finally the owner might tear it down …

Flames leap through the roof of this ruined house – it belongs to the owners of the shopping center to the north – while firefighters slowly and methodically put out the blaze. Again.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

A hot-burning fire in a dilapidated double-wide manufactured home on a lot at 2706 SE 122nd Avenue – across from Clinton Street, and just south of the Popeye’s Chicken drive-through – lit up the Tuesday afternoon sky on June 4. It was certainly not the first time fire had started there, and what remained of the structure showed it.

At 5:38 p.m., Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) crews who’d been dispatched to the blaze observed that the vinyl siding and window frames on another house to the south of this inferno had melted, now appearing like a distorted Salvador Dalí painting.

At first, the fire was so hot, it melted the vinyl siding and window frames on the house next door – but didn’t set it on fire. Its occupants were uninjured.

Neighborhood PF&R Engine and Ladder Truck Companies of firefighters who raced to the scene stopped their rigs along northbound SE 122nd Avenue. An ambulance, also dispatched to the fire, was quickly waved off as firefighters saw there were no injuries.

“Our crews performed normal activities upon arrival, including searching the interior for any potential victims, and found the space devoid of any occupants,” PF&R Public Information Officer Rick Graves told East Portland News.

It didn’t take long for PF&R Parkrose Station #2 – the Training Station – to make their way south along SE 122nd Avenue and join in the firefight with the other 12 units.

A newly-minted PF&R firefighter shoots water into an opening, with the aid of veteran from the Powellhurst Station Engine Company #29 — who totes the waterline hose.

“However, firefighters working inside did report finding many holes in the flooring, which led to the commanding officer to withdraw crews,” Graves continued. “They pivoted from an offensive tactical position – that’s putting out the fire from inside the structure – and took the defensive posture of fighting the fire from outside.”

With the roof too “spongy” to support freighters’ weight, crews continue to pour in water from ground level.

“Yes, there were six newly-yellow-helmeted crewmembers on the scene from Training Station #2,” Graves said, after being questioned about the shiny new hardhats. “These individuals had just completed their training, and had been certified as firefighters only earlier in the day,” he pointed out.

With the fire sufficiently quelled to protect the house next door, firefighters seemed to slow down and take their time, methodically opening the walls of the structure with saws, and spraying water on the remaining fire.

This just-certified firefighter with PF&R Parkrose Training Station #2 – cutting open the wall – happened to be the son of the Battalion Chief who was in command of this incident.

The PF&R Battalion Chief in charge told us they were treating this incident somewhat similarly to a “Burn to Learn” exercise. (That’s when owners of a building which needs to be removed give permission to let firefighters light, then fight, a fire in it, until it’s down burned to cinders.)

“And, the less habitable the structure is, the less likely it will be that we’ll have to return to this property once again to put out another fire,” the Chief added.

Behind the burning house, firefighters make sure surrounding properties are kept safe from fire by wetting down the area.

As firefighter from PF&R Mill Park Station #7’s Ladder Truck Company stood by, he commented that this firefight was unusual. “All of our training and experience makes us want to ‘get in, put out the fire, and leave’, so we can head out to the next call,” he told us.

No one was injured in this fire.

Hopefully, the owners, Midway Plaza LLC, located in San Francisco, will finally tear this structure down, removing another drug flophouse from outer East Portland.

© 2024 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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