Portland Fire crews from across the city responded to three fires in as many hours this morning--capping off a busy New Years weekend. Already this year crews have been dispatched to more than 250 emergencies, eighteen of those emergencies fire related.
At 6:49 a.m., crews from Portland Fire Station 13 (Lloyd District) arrived at 1937 NE Pacific, to a two-story home with fire showing from the back corner of the building. The building, reported to dispatch as possibly vacant, required firefighters to forcibly enter the structure before an interior fire attack could begin. Once access to the interior was made crews searched the structure for occupants while others placed water on the fire. As is common in most older homes, the construction in this building allowed fire to spread between void spaces in the walls; one crew was sent to the second story to open walls, search for fire extension and extinguish hot spots. The fire was brought under control at 7:08, though crews remained on scene until 8:47 to ensure complete extinguishment. The cause of the fire was not immediately known.
At 6:56 a.m. while crews were still actively engaged in the Pacific firefight, an engine from Portland Fire Station 14 (Alberta Park) responded to reports of smoke in a commercial structure at 4120 NE Fremont; crews arrived to find the windows of the occupancy blackened by smoke--an indication of smoldering fire. Again crews were forced to enter a locked structure; once inside they found the structure full of smoke, the result of a smoldering electrical fire. A truck company from Station 1 (Old town) was called to assist the engine company; exhaust fans and salvage equipment were used to remove smoke from the building and perform salvage and overhaul, the processees of removing burned or damaged contents from a building and preventing further damage. Firefighters limited damage to an estimated $40,000--the building is valued at 1.8 million dollars. Engine 14 and Truck 1 remained on scene working until 9:17.
A third fire, this one at 15529 SE Harrison, dispatched at 9:36 a.m. The caller, the son-in-law of the buildings owner, arrived to perform maintenance work on the home and discovered smoke under pressure issuing from roof vents and cracking sounds--he immediately called 911. An engine from Portland Fire Station 31 (Rockwood) was first to arrive and confirmed a working structure fire. Firefighters entered on the first floor of the building to find the entire ground level clear of smoke and fire--without hesitation, firefighters searched the structure and fire attack crews located and made entrance into the attic which was engulfed in flames.
Concurrently, crews from truck 7, equipped with both chain and circular saws, were sent to the roof to cut holes; this firefighting tactic is referred to as "vertical ventilation" and allows heat and smoke to escape the enclosed area and dramatically improves conditions for firefighters operating inside. The fire was brought under control (recalled) at 9:59 and crews remained on scene working until 10:37 a.m. Damages were estimated at $8,650. Electrical wiring was determined to be at fault for this fire.
These fires come in the same week that three concurrent fires challenged the Portland Fire Bureau during the early morning hours of December 28th. Yesterday, marine resources were called to overlapping marine incidents: a jumper from the I205 bridge, a reported boat fire, and a surface rescue of two kayakers in the Willamette river. Contingency planning within the system allows fire response to overlapping incidents without compromise to response times or safety--something that would not be possible without adequate resources, appropriate distribution of personnel and apparatus, and cross trained firefighters.
Last year Portland Fire and Rescue responded to more than 3,000 fire incidents and more 68,000 emergency calls.