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Neighbors from nearby buildings warned residents

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Paul Singh consoles his wife, Sandeep Kaur, as they wait to find out the damage to their home at the Country Oaks Apartments. The couple lives below the apartments, which sustained heavy fire, smoke and water damage. A Beaverton man was injured in an apartment fire on Friday morning that spread to several units of a complex south of Southwest Millikan Way.

Residents and most pets in the northeast building of the Country Oaks Apartments at 13795 S.W. Electric Street were safely evacuated from the building after a kitchen fire broke out sometime after 8 a.m. Friday and spread to adjacent units through the attic spaces.

Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue started receiving calls just after 9 a.m. reporting flames and heavy, dark smoke emitting from the second-floor apartment at the north end of the building closest to Millikan Way, said Chris Hamilton, media producer for TVF&R. The fire, whose apparent origin was burning grease on a stove in the second-floor unit, was under control by 9:50 a.m.by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Residents watch firefighters extinguish hot spots at the Country Oaks Apartments at 13795 S.W. Electric St.

The injured resident, whose name was not released, was transported to Providence St. Vincent Medical Center with non life-threatening burns after receiving treatment by TVF&R personnel.

One cat died in the fire, and another cat remains missing.

The fire brought residents out from adjoining buildings, many of whom helped to alert those in the affected building by yelling and banging on residents’ windows and doors.

“The firefighters conducted a search, and nobody else was inside,” Hamilton said. “Everybody had evacuated the building, which is awesome. People need to know two ways out (of their residence) at all times, so this worked out really well.”

Neighbors aid in alerting others

The fire quickly spread from the kitchen into the attic space, traveling to the southern end of the building, where dark smoke could be seen emitting from roof vents. The wood-framed, 1970s-era building — one of four in the complex — has a sprinkler system in the stairwell, but not in individual units or hallways, Hamilton said.

Fire, smoke and water affected 16 units, including the one below the kitchen where the blaze apparently began, causing an estimated total loss of $480,000. The other buildings were unaffected by the blaze.by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - A Portland firefighter sprays water on hot spots at the Country Oaks Apartments in Beaverton on Friday morning.

About 50 firefighters responded to the scene. Portland Fire & Rescue also assisted in battling the fire.

Paul Singh, who lives in the downstairs apartment, said his upstairs neighbor was running from unit to unit, knocking on doors to warn residents of the fire.

“He was in a complete panic,” Singh said. “He was on the phone to 911 trying to get people out. At that point, only he knew how serious it was. At first we just thought, ‘Oh, it’s just a little bit of smoke.’”

Derric Thompson, who moved into the unit at the south end of the building near the complex’s swimming pool, said he was giving himself a haircut when he noticed smoke in the apartment.

“I was thinking it was mine at first,” he said. “People were banging on doors. It was heavy smoke. It came up real fast, through the bathroom vents. It reminded me of that movie ‘The Mist.’”

After running outside and figuring out what was going on, he went back into his place to grab a few items.

“I’m pretty sure there’s going to be a lot of smoke damage,” he said, noting the building’s tenants are covered by fire and renters insurance.

The American Red Cross worked to secure temporary lodging for about 40 residents of the damaged apartment units who were displaced by the fire.

Nainoa Wilmes, who was staying the night with a friend in an apartment in another building, said he saw members of one family jump over the padlocked gate by the pool in order to warn residents of the burning structure.

“People were screaming and slapping on (residents’) windows,” he said. “When they came out, there was fire everywhere. It’s pretty cool to see that they took the extra steps to save people’s lives.”by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue firefighters adjust their oxygen masks before entering a smoldering building at the Country Oaks Apartments.by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - TVF&R firefighters spray water on hot spots at the Country Oaks Apartments in Beaverton on Friday morning.

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