At 1:30 a.m. the morning of Jan. 7, a call went out to local first responders about an apartment fire in the 1000 block of River Street in Newberg. Firefighters from Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue, along with officers from the Newberg-Dundee Police Department, were immediately dispatched to the scene, where a family of three was reportedly trapped inside the residence.
"I would certainly credit our dispatchers for recognizing the benefit of dispatching police to the fire when it was learned that people were still inside the apartment," NDPD Public Information Officer Brian Hagen said. "We are not trained firefighters and we certainly leave that job to the professionals at TVF&R."
NDPD officers arrived and entered the front door of the apartment to find heavy smoke. They witnessed the family preparing to jump out of a second story window in order to escape the blaze, so officers drove a patrol vehicle around the back of the building and used it as a platform to help them down.
All three members of the family made it out of the apartment without injuries. The family requested not to be interviewed for this or any story about the incident.
Firefighters from TVF&R as well as the Dundee Fire Department arrived soon after, checked the apartment for any remaining occupants and extinguished the fire in about 10 minutes – which NDPD said prevented the spread of the fire to other units in the building.
"Firefighters are typically dispatched from their headquarters and they bring whichever equipment is suited for the call they're sent to," Hagen said. "As police officers, we are more typically out and about in the city already and can often get to calls a bit quicker. Officers can then use problem solving to try to help where they can, which is exactly what took place in this incident by getting the folks out and away from the fire danger."
Officials say that while the family wasn't harmed, they will be displaced as a result of the fire. Red Cross is assisting them with temporary housing in the interim.
The cause of the one-alarm fire was an accident, NDPD said, caused by "a baseboard heater that ignited a Christmas tree." TVF&R noted that citizens should remember that all combustibles should be placed at least three feet from heaters in the home.
TVF&R spokesman Stefan Myers echoed Hagen's sentiments regarding the role of dispatchers and thanked NDPD for its efforts to save the family.
"We commend the quick and decisive actions of these officers," Myers said. "Fire doubles in size every minute, so there is no doubt that the ingenuity of the Newberg-Dundee Police Department prevented possible injury or death.
"This is a reminder that during the winter, individuals need to be careful when heating their home. Home heating equipment needs space and combustibles should be at least three to four feet away. We also know that smoke alarms were critical in alerting the family that there was a fire. Make sure that all smoke alarms are working properly and are tested monthly."
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