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Off-duty Portland firefighter Kevin Dolphin leaped into action March 18 despite lack of equipment

COURTESY PHOTO: GRESHAM FIRE & EMERGENCY SERVICES - An off-duty Portland firefighter and Gresham police officer rescued a woman from a fire in a Fairview home. A random errand earlier this month put an off-duty Portland firefighter in the right place at the right time to save a Gresham woman from a residential blaze.

Firefighter Kevin Dolphin was driving to his parents house to drop off his dog, Taylor, before heading to work Thursday morning, March 18, at Station 7 in Southeast Portland. During that routine stop on his way to a 24-hour shift, his phone dinged with an emergency alert from the Pulse Point app — a third-party notification system that alerts people of medical or fire emergencies.

When he looked in the direction indicated by the app, Dolphin saw "a large glow and good size (column of smoke)." The seven-year firefighter veteran leaped into action.

Dolphin arrived at the residential home at Northeast Interlachen Lane near Fairview Lake, joining Gresham Police Officer Tim Tacca who was first on the scene around 6 a.m. The pair found an elderly homeowner stuck on the balcony of the home as flames ran up the sides of the structure. Despite having no protective gear, and dressed only in running pants and a sweatshirt, Dolphin jumped into action.

He found an aluminum ladder, which both he and Officer Tacca used to get up to the balcony where the woman was trapped. As Tacca got the woman to safety, Dolphin learned her husband, 77-year-old Mel Ries, was still trapped inside. Despite zero-visibility, and dangerous conditions, Dolphin attempted to find Ries.

"I kept track of the wall by sliding my foot along it and then when I searched a room I hooked my foot to the doorway," Dolphin said.

After three or four attempts entering the structure, Dolphin was unable to reach the trapped resident. Ries died in the fire.

"It's not my place to talk about this like I did something great," Dolphin said during a conversation with Portland Fire and Rescue, upset he was unable to rescue Ries.

Fire crews arrived at the two-alarm fire around 6:30 a.m. Neighbors described the flames reaching 50-feet into the air at one point.

The Gresham Fire Department, Portland Fire and Rescue and the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office responded to the scene. In total seven engines, two ladder trucks and a rescue unit responded to the call.

It took crews about 40 minutes to get the fire under control. The cause remains under investigation.

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