3rd Alarm House Fire on SW Madison Street Extinguished, Body of Unidentified Adult Discovered Inside House (Photo)

Portland Fire and Rescue
Portland Fire and Rescue

August 22, 2020 14:30


At 1:55 AM this morning, an alarm company notified Portland Bureau of Emergency Communications 9-1-1 dispatch that there was a fire alarm activation at 2373 SW Madison St. Three minutes later, while a PF&R crew was still responding to investigate this alarm, a neighbor reported to 9-1-1 that the front of this residence was on fire. The neighbor also reported that the house appeared to be unoccupied, with no cars in the driveway. The incident was immediately upgraded to a residential fire response with multiple PF&R units responding to the fire scene.


The first arriving fire unit reported a 2-1/2 story residence with heavy fire showing from one side of the house. As additional crews arrived and got a better look at the house, they reported that this was actually a 3 story house with a basement and that all floors, including the basement and attic space, were heavily involved with fire and that fire was blowing out through multiple windows on all sides of the house.


Because of the heavy fire involvement throughout the house and because the house was too structurally compromised for an interior fire attack (the staircase had burned through), PF&R crews began an aggressive exterior fire attack using multiple hose lines in attempt to begin knocking down the fire and also to protect the four story house to the east.  Although this neighboring house was approximately 20 feet from the fire building, the fire was hot enough to cause cracks in all its windows on all four of its floors that faced the fire building.


At 2:12 AM, crews reported fire showing through the roof and one minute later, the incident commander requested a 2nd alarm to bring additional units to assist due to the heavy fire involvement, the challenging geography of the property, and the fact that this was a large 5500 square foot house. These second alarm crews assisted with hooking up to a second hydrant to provide an additional water supply, operating additional hose lines on all sides of the involved house, and accessing the fire building from an adjacent street at the rear of the structure.


At 2:15 AM 9-1-1 informed incident command that another neighbor reported that no one was home in the fire building. Approximately 30 minutes later, a contractor on scene who is employed by the homeowners also stated that no one was home and that the homeowners were out of state on vacation.


At 2:47 AM, a 3rd Alarm was called to further augment the response and to provide additional personnel so that crews operating at the fire scene could be relieved when necessary. At 2:55 AM, a ladder truck put its ladder pipe into operation from its aerial ladder with its 1000 gallon per minute water stream further extinguishing fire on the difficult-to-access upper stories of the house.


Using these defensive tactics, crews were able to begin fully extinguishing the fire and to prevent fire spread to additional neighboring structures and to surrounding trees and foliage. The fire was recalled as under control at 3:26 AM, with significant active fire present in the structure until approximately 4:30 AM. Fire crews remain on scene at this time extinguishing hot spots from the exterior of the structure, as the fire building remains too unsafe to enter. No firefighters were injured at this incident.


At 5:40 am, a crew operating from a ladder on the west side exterior of the house was able to see the body of a deceased adult through a second floor window.  The identity of this individual remains unknown at this time.


Both the Multnomah County Medical Examiner and the PF&R Investigations Unit are actively investigating this incident. Fire cause remains under investigation at this time.