Investigators seek cause of 5-alarm Portland fire

Investigators seek cause of 5-alarm Portland fire

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by Teresa Blackman, kgw.com Staff

kgw.com

Posted on August 8, 2013 at 6:23 AM

Updated Friday, Aug 9 at 7:01 AM

PORTLAND -- Firefighters battled a five-alarm blaze in Northeast Portland that destroyed a five-story building and forced neighborhood evacuations early Thursday, authorities said.

The fire started in an apartment complex under construction on Northeast Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard near Northeast Monroe Street around 4 a.m. The five-story building collapsed during the blaze but no firefighters were hurt.

Neighbor Teresa Jahangi was one of the first to spot the fire and call 911.

"I just saw a small fire in the back. I wasn't even sure I needed to call about it," she said. "Then I woke the neighbors up went out and the fire was huge. I was almost afraid it would explode it was so big."

The collapsing building nearly fell on a fire engine, but crews were able to move it out of the way just in time, according to Portland Fire and Rescue Lt. Rich Chatman.

As of 6:30 a.m., the fire was contained and firefighters continued to monitor hot spots.

Firefighters also worked to prevent the flames from spreading to surrounding homes.  Two adjacent homes sustained damage and about a dozen neighbors were evacuated. 

"We thank the firefighters. They've done a marvelous job to save this house, especially with the amount of fire -- it's unbelievable," said neighbor Joe Adesiea.

The flames were so intense at times that they melted parts of cars parked nearby.

"It's a huge relief that everybody is safe and we don't have any injuries," the fire chief said. "Residents are safe and firefighters didn't get hurt fighting this fire."

Authorities cut off power around the fire scene as a precaution and said it would remain off at least through noon.  TriMet buses were also being rerouted around the fire scene.

The Monroe Apartments were being built by Pavilion Construction. The building included 46 rental units which were almost ready for tenants to move into.  Chatman said the apartment building has been reduced to a smoldering "debris pile."

An arson investigator arrived at the scene early Thursday.  Authorities said it could take a week to determine the cause of the blaze.

Every available Portland firefighter and piece of equipment responded to the fire, including seven ladder trucks, more than two dozen engines and more than 120 firefighters.

A five-alarm fire is the largest call-out for Portland firefighters.  The last time local firefighters battled a blaze of this magnitude was when the Thunderbird Hotel burned to the ground in North Portland in Sept. of 2012.

More: 5-alarm fire at Thunderbird Hotel

 

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