Simultaneous fires overnight in Portland (PHOTOS ATTACHED) (Photo)

October 21, 2023 06:15


Just after 3:30 this morning, fire crews the north end of the city were called to an apartment fire on Hayden Island.  Early reports indicated multiple cars burning in the parking garage of the lowest level of an occupied apartment building, with unknown involvement of the four floors of apartments directly above.  Crews immediately began work on our top priorities: protecting the lives of residents above and gaining control of the fire.

Meanwhile, another fire was dispatched on SE Hawthorne Blvd.  With a simple report of a “building on fire”, a commercial fire assignment responded in order to prepare for the worst.  The first arriving engine quickly determined that this was a dumpster fire on the outside of the building.  Once they ensured no involvement of the building, all other crews assigned to this fire were sent back in service and that engine remained to fully extinguish the dumpster.

The Hayden Island fire proved challenging.  With a large search and evacuation need upstairs and complicated access to the multiple burning cars, all companies at the fire were quickly committed to life safety, extinguishment and support functions.  The Battalion Chief in command called for a second alarm at this point in order to bring more fire units to the scene.  If significant fire was found to have spread to apartments or a resident had a smoke or fire injury, that “next wave” of crews is critical to proactively handling any situation that comes our way.  Additionally, we needed a crew to staff the Rapid Intervention Team, which is tasked with firefighter safety and firefighter rescue should something go wrong for a responder.

Command soon received reports from the fire attack crews that we were making good progress on extinguishment.  The fire had minimal spread into the living spaces above.  Crews in the apartment area gave an “all clear” on life safety after the conclusion of their searches.  All of the car fires were fully extinguished soon after, and most of those second alarm engines and trucks were returned in service.  Unfortunately, smoke and water damage left approximately eight units temporarily uninhabitable.  Our folks worked with residents to retrieve necessary items, and Red Cross came to the scene to help with temporary housing needs.  

Simultaneous incidents like this always put our organizational skills to the test. We have to ensure all fires have the fire resources they needed, delivered in the most efficient way possible.  We also have to be sure that we are ready for the next unknown emergency, with citywide coverage by fire units.  We lean on our dispatchers to help keep responses efficient and the “blanket of coverage” intact.  Crews are often moved from their home stations to another area to cover the areas that are depleted of engines and trucks.  This morning, we had a Fire Liaison, a PF&R Lieutenant who works at the 911 dispatch center, report to work early to help manage things alongside the dispatchers. 

As we well know, fires at night have a higher mortality rate for the public.  It’s important for members of the public to respond quickly to fire alarms, no matter the time of day.  PF&R would like to remind folks living in apartments and larger occupancies to have an evacuation plan in place, and to evacuate every time the fire alarm goes off until cleared to return inside.  Residents who cannot evacuate, whether due to fire and smoke conditions or a mobility issue, can also call 911 to inform dispatchers that they need extra assistance as they shelter in place.  

We would also like to thank our partners at AMR, Vancouver Fire, Red Cross, and NW Natural as well as our BOEC dispatchers for all of their assistance managing and responding to these incidents.