Large apartment fire in downtown Portland

PORTLAND, OR – Portland fire crews responded to a large fire at a downtown apartment building at the intersection of Southwest 14th Street and Taylor Street on Tuesday. Portland Fire and Rescue tweeted Pictures of residents being evacuated from upstairs windows using stairs shortly before 11 a.m

PF&R He first tweeted that crews were at the scene At 10:43 a.m., heavy smoke could be seen billowing from multiple upper windows of the 5-story building in photos released by the fire department, and a plume of smoke could be seen throughout downtown. Flames were seen at multiple points on the roof of the building, as firefighting teams used ladder trucks to spray water on the building from above.

The street outside the building was closed, and the adjacent portion of Interstate 405 was closed for about two hours due to poor visibility due to smoke, according to PF&R and the Oregon Department of Transportation’s TripCheck map. The highway was later reopened, but local streets were expected to remain closed for hours.

“We’ll be here all night,” said Rick Graves, PF&R’s public information officer.

Speaking to KGW at the scene, Graves said PF&R initially received reports of a heavy fire on the third floor of the building with people on the third floor of the fire escape, so crews initially prioritized getting stairs to that location. The fire began to spread to the fourth floor.

He added that the incident continued to escalate as additional crews and resources were called in over the next two hours. Crews entered the building and began searching for anyone still inside, but had to retreat to make sure everyone was safe and accounted for. Finally, they resumed the search.

One firefighter was injured when a window blew out and a piece of glass hit his forehead, Graves said, although he described the injury as minor and said the firefighter returned and continued working. A KGW crew at the scene witnessed an explosion from the second floor of the building sending debris flying into the street.

Another firefighter was sent to the hospital due to high blood pressure and remains under observation, Graves added.

The fire department also said Portland General Electric cut off power To the area. PGE’s outage map showed 3,707 affected customers near the site early in the day, though that number had diminished significantly by the evening.

Credit: Portland Fire and Rescue

Crews primarily focused on fighting the fire from the outside, in part because the building is an unreinforced masonry structure that makes it difficult for fire crews to gain additional access, Graves said. He said fire could also deteriorate the structural integrity of unreinforced buildings.

“We are really concerned about structural collapse as well,” he said. “We moved our platforms out of the collapse area so that if a building did collapse, we wouldn’t have any fire engines, trucks or personnel at that location.”

He added that crews focused specifically on protecting the adjacent building, because the distance between the two buildings does not exceed four feet.

“We are doing everything we can to make sure we can save this building and continue to work on extinguishing the fire structure,” he said.

Approximately 125 PF&R personnel responded to the fire.

Credit: KW

Speaking to KGW on the street outside, one of the building’s residents, Damien Warren, said he woke up to smoke in his apartment, went downstairs and came out as soon as fire crews arrived.

“There was fire coming out of the windows, and the windows exploded, and I watched it get worse,” he said. “Every time they shut something down, another fire explodes. It’s been going on for about an hour now.”

Another resident, Sentierra Forbes, said she grabbed her dog and made her way to the fire escape after seeing black smoke in her apartment and hallway, but had to leave two cats behind.

“I don’t feel lucky,” she said. “I lost all my stuff. It’s been two years that we’ve been complaining to the apartment manager about the conditions in this building and he’s not being taken seriously.”

Witness Terry Blanchard said she first saw the flames coming from the third floor of the building.

PF&R told KGW that the fire detection system inside the building was on full alarm, but residents were tired of the frequent false alarms and many did not leave at first. PF&R said crews went floor by floor to alert residents that this was not a false alarm and that they needed to evacuate the building immediately.

Recent examination

Officials told KGW that the structure’s age makes it more vulnerable to fire. The building at 1410 SW Taylor Street dates back to 1910, according to PortlandMaps.

The Portland Office of Development Services confirmed they had received complaints about the building from residents, and that an inspector was on site Monday — the day before the building caught fire.

According to BDS Public Information Officer Ken Ray, the city received a complaint on Dec. 1 alleging the building had not addressed severe leaks and mildew, as well as a lack of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, among other concerns.

An inspector went out to visit the building on December 15, and issued the property owner 10 violations of the city’s property maintenance code, although most of them were not directly consistent with the complaint received by the BDS movement.

The owner was given 30 days to address more serious violations and 60 days to address minor violations. But the boycott movement received no response from the owner that the violations had been addressed for months afterward, Ray said.

“Due to limited staffing, the Office of Development Services does not have the resources to re-inspect most buildings by the deadlines specified in the violation letters,” he said in a statement. “It is the property owner’s responsibility to fix the concerns and notify BDS for re-inspection. But that did not happen, and fines began to pile up for uncorrected violations.”

The property owner paid city fines at the end of February and March, Ray said. As of April 27, the owner owed $1,722.60 in fines.

In April, the city followed up with the property manager to address the violations. BDS has been told that corrections are “still being implemented,” Ray said.

Finally, the boycott movement returned on Monday to re-inspect the property. Most of the violations cited in December have been corrected, Ray said, although the inspector noted some things that weren’t addressed and added a violation for a fire door that was opened.

Violations that were not addressed included a fire extinguisher missing a glass breaker, missing emergency lights in the laundry area and northeast corner hallway, and a fire extinguisher in the laundry room with an expired test tag.

City records show the century-old building was last sold in 2004 for $395,000. Its most recent market value was listed at around $6 million.

Collecting donations for displaced residents

GoFundMe has verified four legitimate fundraisers, as of Friday, May 19, for renters needing assistance due to the fire. Click on the links below to donate to any of the fundraisers:

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