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Blaze shutters decades-old Southeast barber shop

by: DAVID F. ASHTON - Thick smoke nearly hides the six crewmembers from two PF&R fire stations as they battle this Southeast Portland blaze. Drivers during rush hour might have thought it was an April Fool’s prank when S.E. 82nd Avenue of Roses was closed down on April 1, just before 5 pm, but it wasn’t. Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) crews had arrived to fight a stubborn blaze at a barber shop on the corner of S.E. Ramona Street.

“My dad took me there for my first haircut,” recalled neighbor Merle Lincoln, as he watched crews scramble to put out the fire at the Dale Brothers Barber Shop – which has done business for four decades at 5762 S.E. 82nd Avenue. “And, I took my son there for his first haircut.”

The crew riding PF&R Engine 11 from the Lents neighborhood’s fire station arrived first, and reported seeing “heavy fire and smoke” coming from the two-story house, which long ago had been converted into a barber shop.

Over their two-way radios, firefighters seemed, at first, frustrated in their efforts to locate any stairway to the upper floor – while other crew members entered the burning building from the ground-floor doors to search for possible victims.

Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Sgt. John Anderson said he was on-scene when the firefighters opened an upper door to gain entry.

“When it opened, I think the air that rushed in fueled the fire,” observed Anderson. “There was a ‘foomp’ sound; the whole roof lifted a little, and flames shot out from around the eves.”

Responders from Woodstock’s Truck 25 and Hazelwood’s Truck 7 laddered up onto the steeply sloped roof – to provide “vertical ventilation”, by cutting holes to release smoke and heat, so that the firefighters inside could navigate the interior of the business.

“Despite encountering heavy fire on the second floor and attic,” said PF&R Public Information Officer Lt. Rich Chatman, “interior crews were able to stop the fire, in this locally-owned business of 40 years.”

Two firefighters suffered minor injuries that did not require ambulance transport, Chatman told THE BEE after the fire.

PF&R Fire investigators determined the fire’s cause to be an unspecified electrical problem, Chatman added. “Property loss is estimated at $30,000.” For now, the barber shop’s telephone has been disconnected, without a forwarding number. Whether or not this long-standing Southeast business will reopen is unclear.