Firefighters Battle House Fire In Freezing Temperatures

Portland Fire was dispatched to a possible house fire at just after midnight in the NW Pearl District Neighborhood. Shortly after the dispatch was sent the first arriving company was on scene of a large 3 story home with smoke showing and took command of the incident. They communicated on the radio that there was construction on the road which would make access difficult and attempted to redirect the first arriving truck to set up for a nose to nose in front of the home.

Many companies arrived at the same time while fire began to show on the back side of the home on the second floor. The command officer directed his bravo team to take a hose interior and perform and offensive fire attack. A battalion chief arrived and moved into the first arriving engine and took command of the fire sitting in the driver’s seat of the engine. The chief’s first command was to direct a different crew to force entry and perform a primary search of the home and provide access for the fire attack company.

Shortly there was active radio traffic with concern for the fire to spread to the neighboring structure. Command directed a crew to take a hose line and protect the apartment complex to the left side of the house on fire with the amount of fire pushing out of the home, impinging on this neighboring multi-dwelling residence. As this hose line was put into service, a report that there was more heavy fire showing out of the second and third stories which prompted the chief to call for a second alarm response. With the wind causing the fire to rapidly grow, emergency tones were sounded, and the chief directed all crews that were on the inside of the structure to withdraw and exit the building with their tools and hose lines. A personal accountability report was performed, and all firefighters had safely exited the home. 

Radio traffic was continuous at this point with reports of fire in the basement, a burn through on the second floor seen from an exterior ground ladder thrown to access a second story window, and a charged electrical line that had been severed and was lying on the ground near the home on fire. Companies were requesting to enter the structure and try to advance hose lines to the second floor but with reports of possible basement fire the chief required an inspection of the basement before any companies reentered the home to continue the offensive fire attack. A crew forced the door to the basement from the exterior and was able to relay there was small fire showing in the joists supporting the first floor and there were able to extinguish the flames quickly. This would normally allow the crews to reenter but in the period it took to force entry and report the fire conditions to command, the main body of fire grew to unsafe levels to perform any more interior offensive fire attack. The chief directed crews to use hand lines from the exterior through windows to cool and extinguish the flames. Ladders were thrown to the second story and hose lines were put in place on all sides of the home in the first 2 levels. There was good success in reducing the flames using this style of fire attack on the first 2 levels but the fire on the third level continued to grow.

An arial bucket truck was put into position to use their nozzles to put large amounts of water on the third level and through the holes in the roof where the fire had burned through which reduced the amount of fire in the upper level as well. There were areas that were protected from the water streams from the intact roof that were still burning but much of the fire was extinguished using the exterior hose lines and bucket truck. 

Crews were directed to remove the ladders and back away from the side of the building to ensure that if there was a structural collapse or roof debris blown off the home it would not be a danger to anyone working on the scene. All members on the ground with hand lines were directed to back away and stay in a safe area while applying water through windows. The fire was considered extinguished to a safe level where the second alarm companies could be released and placed back in service. Crews were eventually able to safely enter the building and make their way to all floors and work on completely extinguishing any fire still present. The fire is currently under investigation to determine a cause.

The cold weather made it challenging for crews as they performed their firefighting tasks. There was a slower response due to all fire rigs having their tires chained up. The cold temperatures affected a few SCBA bottles that froze up allowing a free flow the air from their bottles. Later in the fire, crews were forced to modify the tool of choice to tools with a “D” handle because the frozen gloves could not maintain a good grip on straight handled tool. The PF&R rehab rig was requested to provide so relief with hot drinks and a TriMet bus was brought to the scene to allow the firefighters to rotate through to warm up out of the elements. There was even a tree that was beginning to ice over with the water from the hose lines and freeze to the fire building.

Portland Fire & Rescue would like to thank our partners at BOEC, TriMet, and the power company and their help at the scene.

Source: Portland Fire & Rescue

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