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NEWS RELEASE 05/02/12: Portland Firefighters Overcome Language Barrier, Locate Family in Challenging House Fire at 2250 NE 81st

May 2, 2012

9:07 AM

At 12:15 am, a fire was reported in a house located at 2250 NE 81st. When firefighters from Portland Fire Station 19 (Mt. Tabor) arrived, they encountered an occupant in front of the house who informed firefighters that there was fire inside the home. Due to a language barrier, firefighters were unclear whether the man's wife and two children had escaped the fire and immediately went into search and rescue mode. They searched all levels of the home looking for the three unaccounted for family members.

Simultaneously, two other fire crews arrived and directed firefighting efforts toward the basement where the fire was located. Radio traffic amongst first responders was busy with crews reporting back to command that they were unable to find the missing family members. Fire crews in the basement were also confronted with bars on the basement windows; this meant there was only one way in and out of the basement. The situation became a safety concern for firefighters, so a truck crew cut the bars off the windows to allow for additional escape routes for firefighters if needed.

With smoke still thick, crews reported back that no one was found in the basement. Command again questioned the man about the location of his family. They were able to determine a short time later that the family had safely evacuated and was waiting in a car in the back driveway of the home.

"This is a good example of how important a family fire escape plan is for families and firefighters," stated Portland Fire & Rescue Captain Kris Artman. "We urge families to develop an escape plan and have a central meeting point where all family members can meet and be seen by firefighters or other emergency responders."

Visit http://www.portlandonline.com/fire/homeescapeplan to learn how to develop and practice a home fire escape plan. The cause of the fire is under investigation and the damage estimate to the house is $25,000.