Portland Fire & Rescue
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News Release
Portland Fire Crews Battle Two-Alarm High-Rise Apartment Fire - 12/07/17

At 10:31 this morning Portland Fire Crews were dispatched to a report of an apartment fire at Park Plaza Apartments. The eleven story, 149 unit apartment building, is located at 1969 SW Park Ave. On arrival, crews made their way to the top floor where they found heavy smoke in one apartment unit and fire in the bedroom of that unit. At 10:42 the Incident Commander called for a second alarm to bring additional resources. One occupant of the affected unit sustained injuries related to the fire and was transported by ambulance to the hospital. Once the fire was located, crews were able to quickly extinguish it, keeping it confined to the room of origin. Investigators then worked to determine that the cause of fire was improperly discarded smoking materials. Finally, firefighters worked to remove all charred material from the damaged apartment, smoke from the 11th floor hallways, and confirm that the fire would not rekindle. Approximately 50 occupants of the building, who were home at the time of the fire, were temporarily displaced while fire crews worked to make the building safe for them to go back inside. The two occupants of the apartment where the fire occurred will require alternate housing while the damaged unit is restored.

Portland Fire and Rescue reminds all citizens to properly discard smoking material in a non-combustible (glass or metal) ashtray or container, and to not allow old smoking material to build up in this container.

Elevated fires in high-rise buildings are especially challenging for firefighters. They must carry all of their equipment aloft by stairwell until they can determine if the elevators have been compromised by the fire or are safe to operate for shuttling equipment. Because these fire are so labor intensive, in the City of Portland, a first alarm high-rise fire response consists of seven engines, three ladder trucks, a heavy squad, and three chiefs. The second alarm assignment is four additional engines, two additional trucks, and another heavy squad. They also receive two additional chiefs, and a rehab unit to support the efforts of the incident commander and fire crews.

Communications can also be difficult in these large buildings and often times the firefighter's radios will not transmit through the heavy concrete walls. Portland has a very robust emergency communications system with excellent radios and transmission capabilities, but even the most robust system can be challenged by heavy masonry construction. When this happens, firefighters must switch their radios to "simplex" mode which "boosts" the signal but reduces the coverage area, meaning only the radios on the incident scene will be able to transmit and receive messages from that incident scene. This makes it more difficult for chief officers and the dispatch center to monitor the firefighters progress from outside locations. To overcome this, the fire code now requires newly constructed high-rise buildings to install equipment that boosts emergency radio signals inside the building, improving emergency communications.

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