August 23, 2023 17:35
Just before 2pm today, Engine 14 (stationed adjacent to Alberta Park on NE Killingsworth) was dispatched on a reported brush fire at an address on NE Columbia Blvd. near NE 42nd Ave. The caller initially reported a small grass and brush fire. Two minutes later, they updated dispatchers that the fire now seemed to involve the awning of a building. With that information, the Lieutenant on Engine 14 upgraded the response to a Commercial Fire, which summons a total of four engines, two trucks and two Battalion Chiefs.
On arriving in the area, Engine 14 encountered thick smoke, making it difficult to determine the specific location of the fire. It's critical to determine the best access to a building as early as possible so that apparatus are placed strategically and the closest fire hydrants can be used for water supply. In this case, the initial location given to dispatch was slightly off, so arriving crews communicated quickly to look at access from multiple directions. The next arriving engine located a driveway on another street that provided a clear path to the building, and fire operations were set up from there.
Now with a complete view of the building, crews reported heavy smoke from a one story commercial building. With the proximity of other commercial buildings, the difficult access to the location of the fire and the overall smoke conditions, a second alarm was requested four minutes after the first crew arrived. This brings more apparatus and firefighters to assist with efforts and to rotate in if the firefight goes on for a long period of time. As further units arrived, they worked diligently to access the interior of the building, performing "garage door cuts" so they could get in quickly to search for victims and extinguish the fire. While in the process of searching and initiating fire attack, a Battalion Chief arrived and assumed command of the incident.
Smoke and fire conditions rapidly deteriorated, with thick black smoke emanating from the metal roof, increasing in pressure and turbulence, and heavy fire seen inside the building. These smoke conditions are a warning sign of a possible violent fire event as well as general building instability. Relying on his decades of fire experience, the Battalion Chief in command made the decision to "go defensive", withdrawing all fire crews from inside in order to attempt extinguishment from the exterior. Special alert tones were sounded on all firefighters' radios, and soon after a formal head count was performed to ensure no firefighters were missing or injured. Thankfully all were accounted for.
Around this time, reliable information was coming in that there were no civilians on the premises at the time of the fire. Aerial ladder trucks were raised in the air and plumbed to provide "big water" if needed. Meanwhile, other firefighters performed saw cuts into the side of the building to get water directly into the attic/ roof structures. These efforts proved successful, firefighters reentered under safer conditions and the majority of the fire was extinguished within approximately 30 minutes of the first engine arriving. Aside from vegetation and fencing, all fire was contained to the original structure. No civilians or firefighters were injured in this fire.
A total of approximately 60 firefighters responded to this fire, including a Fire Investigator who determined that the cause of this fire was electrical in nature.
PF&R would like to thank the general public for their patience and understanding of the inevitable impact to traffic on some fire incidents. In this case, crews needed to access a fire hydrant across Columbia Blvd, necessitating a full shut down of traffic in both directions. It's imperative for us to prevent vehicle-related damage to those hoses, in order to keep our firefighting efforts safe and efficient. As operations wind down, we remove those hoses and reopen traffic as soon as possible. Thank you to all who were impacted by this closure who patiently diverted their routes.