Warehouse Destroyed By 4 Alarm Fire

Photo: Portland Fire Bureau

At 6:28 a.m. on Wednesday, Portland Fire & Rescue responded to Royce’s Prop Shop, an industrial design shop located in the Humboldt Neighborhood in North Portland. Crews approaching noted a significant smoke column, or header, indicating a working fire. Upon arrival, there was smoke pushing out of a roll up door and interior fire evident in the windows. The crews quickly went to work on an offensive fire attack with crews attempting to locate and extinguish the fire. At the 10-minute mark, with heavy fire activity overhead in the ceiling and internal mezzanine, crews were directed to withdraw from the structure and a defensive tactical strategy was employed along with the request of a second alarm assignment. The command staff eventually added a third and fourth alarm assignment to address the volume of fire in the structure. An hour after the call was initiated, the fire was considered controlled, and the incident was pared down to a few remaining engines and trucks to continue to address the smoldering hot spots within the business. There were no reported injuries due to the fire. The fire is under investigation.

The reported 70’x100’ cinderblock warehouse contained a heavy fire load of lumber, fabrics, and fuels used to manufacture the designs and props manufactured at the location. Initial interior fire attack was assisted by the computer mapping system input into the mobile computers on each rig with the interior officer asking command for direction on where to access the stairs to the upper-level mezzanine. The interior attack was successful and reducing a good amount of fire at the ground level, but the fire had extended upward and was now not only in the materials stored at the mezzanine level but had begun to work its way into the ceiling and roof structures. With significant fire activity overhead and fire activity growing, the command officers directed all crews to withdraw from the interior and conduct a Personnel Accountability Report (PAR), verifying all members were out of the structure safely. As the withdraw occurred, the truck crew on the roof was able to successfully cut a ventilation hole with fire immediately pushing out of the hole with firefighters alongside the hole. 

A second alarm assignment was called at this point and the 3 aerial ladders on scene put their sticks in the air and began to flow water from an elevated position along with many hand lines being used along the perimeter of the structure getting water inside any window and door opening possible. The heavy fire load of the construction materials contributed to the significant growth and volume of fire within the structure. This material also created barriers, almost like umbrellas, covering the seat of the fire making the aerial streams difficult to access the heat and flames. With more work to be done and an increased water supply needed, the command staff eventually called a third and then fourth alarm assignment to the location totaling nearly 100 members of PF&R on site, including members of our Emergency Vehicle Technicians from the logistics section. These members went to each engine and truck on scene and made sure they had the proper amount of fuel and did a quick check to be sure they were ready to operate continuously throughout the firefighting operation.

Challenges for the crews on scene included many overhead wires that made the placement of the aerial ladders difficult. There was also the concern of structural collapse, so all crews were requested to work a certain distance from the structure, so they were not in any collapse zone and safe from potential injury. Lastly, there were a few large box trucks parked alongside one of the walls, with a concern for fire extension to each of these large trucks.

The crews made entry into every surrounding structure and confirmed that there was not any extension into any of these adjacent structures. Of note, the dual drive (electric and diesel motor) Volterra Fire Engine that operates out of Station 1 was supplying a truck for the aerial master stream. The Volterra began this supply under battery power and switched seamlessly into the onboard diesel engine when the battery charge was dropped to the level of concern, just as designed. The fire is currently under investigation. 

PF&R would like to thank Pacific Power for responding and deenergizing the elevated electrical wires for the safety of the firefighters on scene. We would also like to thank our partners at BOEC and PBEM for their assistance in this incident.

Source: Portland Fire Bureau

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