4 rescued in major fire in downtown Portland, Oregon, before firefighters pulled back as blaze rages
May 16, 2023, 12:57 PM | Updated: 1:28 pm
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Firefighters rescued several people and at least one dog from a dramatic, three-alarm apartment fire in downtown Portland on Tuesday before they were ordered to fall back.
Portland Fire & Rescue tweeted that firefighters had been ordered to fall back because of the fire’s growth. It wasn’t immediately clear if there were any casualties. The cause of the blaze wasn’t immediately known.
Rick Graves, spokesman for the agency, told KGW-TV at the scene that firefighters had rescued four people but were told to pull back before they could finish searching the building.
At several times, windows exploded as the fire ripped through the structure. Authorities were concerned the building might collapse or the flames might spread to another structure just feet away, Graves said. Huge plumes of thick smoke were visible from most areas of the city.
“We’re really concerned with a structural collapse as well,” Graves told the station. “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.”
The fire in the city’s core also posed dangers for drivers. Transportation officials said Interstate 405 and surface streets were closed in the immediate area because of low visibility from heavy smoke and would likely be shut down for hours.
Photos and video posted by the department showed black smoke pouring out of the four-story, older building and firefighters helping residents and even a dog down ladders to safety.
John Rosenthal lives several blocks from the building.
“It’s just nonstop hoses going in there,” he said of firefighters flooding the building with water.
From Blake Stroud’s apartment about a half mile away, he could see a smoke plume “oscillating between white and dark smoke,” he said.
“At the bottom of the plume you could see the flames,” he said.