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Fire chief praises efforts that saved lives in early Wednesday four-alarm fire.

COURTESY PHOTO: GREG NUHR/PF&R - The scene of the four-alarm fire at the care facility in Southeast Portland.Portland firefighters helped evacuate 24 people from a care facility that was heavily damaged by a four-alarm fire early Wednesday in Southeast Portland.

According to Portland Fire & Rescue, those evacuated were found in rooms throughout the facility and could not get out on their own.

"First and foremost, I want to commend the heroism of the two on-site employees who risked their lives starting the initial evacuation of the residents under heavy fire conditions. When firefighters arrived their number priority was the immediate rescue of every resident within the facility under worsening fire conditions. Because of their tactical decisions and valiant efforts so many lives were saved and turned near tragedy into an incredible success story," said Fire Chief Sara Boone.

COURTESY PHOTO: GREG NUHR/PFR - First responders evacuate a resident from the early Wednesday blaze.According to the bureau, at 1:08 a.m. on May 11, a call came in from Hope N Care at 12045 S.E. Pardee St. The caller told dispatchers that there was a fire in the roof of this facility.

Crews were dispatched at 1:09 and the first apparatus on scene found heavy fire from the roofline and went all-in for search, the bureau said. While the Engine 7 crew began to pull hose lines to fight the fire, the Truck 7 crew went inside, where they found a couple of employees of the facility pulling residents out to safety.

The Truck 7 crew began to pull other victims from their rooms as the fire blew down the vents and light fixtures above their heads.The Truck 7 crew requested help with the evacuation, so the Engine 29 and Engine 25 crews assisted because every room had people inside that couldn't evacuate themselves.

A total of 16 people were evacuated out of the front of the structure. At approximately 1:15 a.m., the command called for a second alarm and declared the fire a Mass Casualty Incident because of the possibility of multiple victims. This brought additional fire crews as well as AMR transport units to the scene.

COURTESY PHOTO: GREG NUHR/PFR - Portland firefighters battle the blaze at the care facility from the outside before the roof collapsed.

The Truck 7 crew continued to search the rear of the building, where they found an attached two-story building that had additional residents. The crew was able to safely evacuate an additional eight people and get them to safety.

At this point, the bureau said, the priorities of the command shifted to extinguishment and the additional crews focused more on the fire that was now consuming a large portion of the attic space of the U-shaped building. Crews began to pull the ceiling down and attack the fire from below, but the attic was so heavily involved that crews were ordered to withdraw and attack the fire from the exterior until it was safe to continue interior operations.

During the firefighting operations, crews including Fire, AMR, and the Portland Police Bureau helped move residents to a safe place to allow operations to continue.

COURTESY PHOTO: GREG NUHR/PFR - A care facility resident is moved to safety.

At about 1:44 a.m., part of the roof structure collapsed but did not fall on any firefighters because they had been ordered out in anticipation of such collapse.

Firefighters were able to get the fire under control and were recalled at 2:25 a.m. It is without a doubt that having the appropriate resources made a difference in the outcome of this incident, according to the bureau.

Fire officials said all the residents and employees made it out. TriMet buses arrived at the scene to keep those evacuated out of the cold, and an employee was reportedly rushed to the hospital with minor injuries.

"I'd like to recognize and thank AMR, our mutual aid partners Clackamas County Fire and Gresham Fire, BOEC, Portland Police, TRI-Met, Red Cross, PGE, and NW Natural Gas for their critical contributions on this complex incident. Portland should be proud," Boone said.

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