PORTLAND -- The two firefighters who suffered injuries in the large two-alarm blaze at a condo building in Southwest Portland Wednesday were recovering from burns and a broken hand, fire officials said.
A third firefighter fell through the roof as it collapsed under him. Kurtis Sommer landed on a rafter about four feet down and amazingly, was not injured.
"Luckily the fire was in the phase that it was in, because if he would have fallen through, and now it is an opening and the heat is going to exhaust, he's gonna be in a serious, serious situation," explained Todd Keathley, the Safety Chief for Portland Fire & Rescue.
Ten units responded to the blaze at The Village at Multnomah Condominiums, located at 9731 SW 40th Avenue in Portland, which broke out shortly after 4 p.m.
Investigators on Thursday said that improperly discarded smoking materials were to blame for igniting the blaze. The item was put in a plastic container on a porch and then the flames spread, Corah said. Damage was estimated at $970,000.
Firefighters attacked the flames from the ground, nearby patios and also from the roof, where they smashed open holes to create vents.
Sommer was one of the firefighters on the roof. He suddenly fell through as it collapsed under him. This happened while Sky-8 was showing live aerial video of the fire. Two other firefighters could be seen crawling over, peering into the hole, and then giving the "okay" signal. Fire dispatch radios also indicated the firefighter was okay.
Raw video: Firefighter falls through roof
"He was up there trying to find hotspots on the roof and there was a weak spot and he fell three or four feet into the rafters and he crawled out and he is fine, lucky for him," said Lt. Paul Corah with the Portland Fire & Rescue.
As crews battled the blaze from the roof, other firefighters went inside to look for possible victims. There were reports from 911 callers that a babysitter and child may be trapped inside. As it turned out, no one was inside but two firefighters - a 12-year veteran and a firefighter with PF&R for 1.5 years - were injured during the interior search.
"One firefighter sustained burns to his knee, ear, and hand," Corah said. "The other sustained burns to one hand and broke the other hand. Their names will not be released at this time." He said both were in stable condition Thursday.
A number of other people were treated outside the condos for smoke inhalation and nearby condos were evacuated. The blaze burned so hot, it melted the siding on a building 60 feet away. The heavy smoke could be seen for miles.
As of 5 p.m., the fire had been contained to one building of the condo complex. Authorities said three condos had been destroyed and three others were saved, partly due to an interior firewall. Investigators were searching through the rubble Thursday to try and figure out how the fire started.
Corah said seven adults and one baby were displaced in the fire.