April 18, 2012
At 1:36 pm this afternoon, Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) firefighters responded to a residential fire at a triplex located at 6307 SE 72nd Avenue.
The initial 9-1-1 call was by a neighbor who reported that a smoke alarm was alerting next door and smoke and flames could be seen.
PF&R Engine and Rescue 11 (Lents) arrived on-scene in less than four minutes and confirmed that heavy smoke and fire were coming from the inside of the triplex’s middle unit. Firefighters were met outside by a 65-year old woman who had extensive burns and was suffering from smoke inhalation. This presented a challenging situation for crews who delivered immediate care to the woman and began fighting the growing fire.
Initial crews established a water supply and entered the home. Firefighters from Engine 9 (Hawthorne) and Engine 25 (Woodstock) provided back up hose lines to protect the fire attack crew. All utilities and gas were shut off as a precautionary measure and for the safety of the firefighters and traffic control was established in the area.
Truck 25 crews prepared to ventilate the home’s roof. Engine 20 was designated as the Rapid Intervention Team or RIT crew, dedicated solely to the search and rescue of downed firefighters.
Firefighters quickly determined the location and extinguished the fire in less than six minutes while simultaneously searching the home for additional occupants. They then checked for fire extensions in the walls, ceiling, and the two adjacent units. Unfortunately, firefighters encountered difficult conditions when checking for ceiling extensions due to the plywood construction. The Incident Commander of the fire then instructed Truck 25 firefighters to cut a hole or ventilate the roof in order to allow smoke and heat to escape. This helped to give the engine crews inside the home additional visibility and made conditions more tenable. A fan was also placed in the front door of the home to speed up the ventilation process.
The fire was recalled at 1:53 pm, 17 minutes after fire crews were dispatched. Firefighters from Engine and Truck 25 and Engine 11 remained on-scene to complete salvage and overhaul and secure the home.
A PF&R fire investigator later determined that the elderly woman was smoking a cigarette while using a nasal cannula for oxygen. A fire ignited that burned the woman and spread to the kitchen cabinets. The elderly woman was transported code-3 with life-threatening injuries to the Oregon Burn Center by ambulance.
Damage to the home is estimated at $20,000.
PF&R reminds citizens that it is important to understand how oxygen can contribute to home fires. Oxygen should always be handled with caution and complete awareness of potential hazards. Visit http://www.portlandonline.com/fire/homeoxygensafety for ways to safely use home-based and portable oxygen systems in the home.