A three-alarm fire damaged apartments and sent one person to the hospital for burns sustained while cooking fries in hot oil

COURTESY PHOTO: FOREST GROVE FIRE & RESCUE - A fire in the 1700 block of 19th Avenue in Forest Grove, a two-story home converted to apartments, sent one person to the hospital with burns Friday night, July 14.Two people were injured in an apartment fire in Forest Grove Friday night that appeared to have started in the kitchen.

Firefighters responded to a call just after 10:30 p.m. July 14 to firefighters were dispatched to a residential fire in the 1700 block of 19th Avenue just after 10:30 p.m. Friday night. According to Forest Grove Fire & Rescue spokesman Matt Johnston, "it was reported that someone was trapped upstairs, [and] because of this, a second alarm was dispatched."

Crews arrived minutes later and found a two-story house with flames and smoke showing from the first floor. They also discovered no one was trapped in the structure and "focused their efforts on fighting the flames," Johnston said. Firefighters extinguished the flames on the first floor but discovered the fire had spread to the second floor and attic through the walls.

"Crews had a hard time accessing stairs to the second floor because they were accessed from the exterior as the structure was a house converted to apartments and not a single-family dwelling [as] previously believed," Johnston noted.

Firefighters got to the second floor and extinguished the flames, but had a difficult time getting to flames in the attic. At the same, they discovered the roof on a neighboring auto repair shop had started fire, prompting a third alarm to bring in additional firefighters. The auto-shop fire was contained at "a very small size," according to Johnston.

It took firefighters an hour to extinguish the fire and another hour and a half to put out hot spots and salvage valuables. The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but appears to have started in the kitchen in the first-floor apartment where a resident was cooking frozen fries in oil. That resident sustained burn injuries and was transported to a Portland burn center by Metro West Ambulance. A resident from the second floor apartment received care at the scene for smoke inhalation, but didn't go to a hospital, Johnston said.

"We want to remind everyone that when cooking with oil to never add food to it with water or ice on it," he noted. "The steam produced has small amounts of oil mixed in and can create a large fire ball. Also always have a fire extinguisher placed in your kitchen."

FGF&R was assisted at the scene by Cornelius Fire Department, Gaston Fire District, Hillsboro Fire Department, Banks Fire District, Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue, Metro West Ambulance and Forest Grove Police.

Ten engines, one truck, two scene support vehicles and a total of 45 firefighters were involved in quelling the blaze.

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