Fire crews rescue people from burning downtown Portland apartment building

PORTLAND, Ore.  (KGW)— Portland fire crews are responding to a large fire in a downtown apartment building at the intersection of Southwest 14th Avenue and Taylor Street. Portland Fire & Rescue tweeted pictures of residents being evacuated from upper story windows using ladders just before 11 a.m.

PF&R first tweeted that crews were on scene at 10:43 a.m. Thick smoke could be seen billowing out of multiple upper windows of the 5-story building in photos posted by the fire department, and a plume of smoke could be seen throughout downtown. Flames could be seen at multiple points on the roof of the building as fire crews used ladder trucks to spray water at the building from above.

The street outside the building is closed, along with an adjacent stretch of Interstate 405 due to poor visibility from the smoke, according PF&R and the Oregon Department of Transportation’s TripCheck map. The local street closures are expected to last for hours.

“We’ll be here all night,” said PF&R public information officer Rick Graves.

Speaking to KGW at the scene, Graves said the incident had continued to grow with additional crews and resources being called in over the previous two hours, and that crews had moved to exterior-only work.

“We’re really concerned with a structural collapse as well,” he said. “We’ve moved our rigs out of the collapse zone so that if we do in fact have a building collapse, we won’t have one of our fire engines or trucks or personnel in that location.”

Crews are particularly focused on protecting the adjacent building, he said, because the two structures are only about four feet apart.

“We’re doing everything we possibly can to make sure we can save that building, and continue to work on knocking the flames down on the fire structure,” he said.

The age of the structure makes it more vulnerable to fire, officials told KGW. The building at 1410 Southwest Taylor St dates back to 1910, according to PortlandMaps.

PF&R tweeted just after 11 a.m. that fire crews had been directed to withdraw from the building amid increased fire growth. A spokesman said four people were rescued, but the crews had to pull back before the search was complete, and crews were said to still be searching as of about 11:50 a.m.

Speaking to KGW on the street outside, one of the building’s residents said he woke up to smoke in his apartment, got downstairs and exited just as fire crews arrived.

“There was fire coming out of the windows, the windows exploding, I just watched it get worse and worse,” he said. “Every time they’d kind of shut something down, another fire would burst up. It’s been going on for about an hour now.”

One firefighter was injured when a window blew out and a piece of glass struck his forehead, Graves said, although he described the injury as minor, and said the firefighter went back and kept working. A KGW crew at the scene witnessed an explosion from the second story of the building that send debris flying into the street.

The fire department also said Portland General Electric had cut off power to the area. PGE’s outage map showed 3707 affected customers near the site.

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