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An apartment fire turned fatal...and there are some hints that the victim might have started the blaze

DAVID F. ASHTON - Standing by at the back of Brentwood-Darlington four-plex, firefighters kept watch for fire flare-ups - near where the deadly blaze killed one resident. An apartment fire proved deadly, late on Monday morning of February 15, in the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood on 72nd Avenue, just south of S.E. Cooper Street.

9-1-1 callers reported hearing explosions and seeing fire from an individually-addressed unit at 6844 S.E. 72nd Avenue – the second of four units on the north side of an unnamed four-plex – and that summoned numerous Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) apparatus and firefighters at 11:16 a.m. that morning.

Minutes later, three fire trucks had arrived – including both the engine and the ladder truck from Woodstock Fire Station 25, which radioed to dispatchers as they pulled up, "Fire showing from the back side of the apartment building". While the crew of the Engine 25 began hooking up water lines, firefighters from Ladder Truck 25 began searching both the burning apartment, and those adjacent, for any victims.

Twelve other fire rigs pulled up along S.E. 72nd Avenue. Some of those firefighters helped with a second search of all four apartments to look for more victims, but found none.

Alarm tones warbled on the crews' communicators, following by the announcement that the roof had collapsed into the apartment where the fire was believed to have started.

After a firefighter reported finding a deceased victim in that particular unit, crews were eventually joined by four PF&R Investigators.

"There were multiple reports that there might have been a child trapped inside," PF&R Public Information Officer Lt. Rich Chatman later told THE BEE. "Crewmembers made a very complete search of all the affected units; we eventually accounted for the child, and all other residents, outside. But one female was found deceased in [the burned] unit, unfortunately."

Although this report has not yet officially been confirmed, reportedly the victim was 49 years old, was said to be experiencing a mental health crisis, and is believed possibly to have intentionally set the fatal fire which eventually caused small propane tanks in the apartment to explode, and led to her death.

Firefighters were at the apartments for hours, as were investigators – combing through the ashes and rubble. All surviving residents of the four-plex were displaced, because fire had burned through the attics and into all the other units.

"It's a difficult time for the residents here," Chatman observed.


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