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A building in Southeast's most-sprawling apartment complex caught fire -- no injuries, but much damage

DAVID F. ASHTON - A firefighter carefully walked out on the charred balcony of a second-story apartment in the Wimbledon Square apartment complex in the Reed neighborhood. This balcony is where the damaging fire may have started. It started as a quiet Saturday morning, May 22, at the large Wimbledon Square Garden Apartments complex in the Reed neighborhood.

Then a fire erupted at an apartment in a stand-alone four-unit building at 5044 S.E. 28th Avenue, at Colt Drive.

At 9:23 a.m., the fire dispatcher at the 9-1-1 Center alerted nearby fire stations – including Westmoreland Station 20's Engine Company, and both Engine and Ladder Truck Companies from Woodstock Station 25. "A caller says there is a fire starting on the second floor balcony of the building; the caller thinks all the residents are outside."

Two minutes later, a firefighter from Rescue 23, a two-person rig rolling in from a station on S.E. Powell Boulevard at 12th Avenue, radioed to dispatch, "We're seeing a 'header' [column of smoke] from a few blocks away."

As Engine 20 was pulling in, the Rescue 23 crew reported, "We have a two-story apartment complex with two floors 'going' – the first and second floor." The firefighter added that the fire was on the side facing S.E. 28th Avenue.

Only seven minutes after the first dispatch, at 9:30 a.m. there was a call goes for a Second Alarm, to bring in many more units – including from Fire Station 1 in downtown Portland. The reason for the Second Alarm was immediate concern about another, larger apartment building just a couple of yards east of the fire-involved building, and connected by a skybridge.

While the firefighters of Engine 20 were hooking up water supply lines and pulling fire hoses, Truck 25's crew was assigned to look for anyone who might still be trapped in the burning units; they found none.

Later that day, an unidentified PF&R official confirmed that all the burning building's occupants had safely escaped before fire crews arrived at the scene; and, that the immediate action by arriving firefighters had kept the blaze from spreading to any nearby building.

The eight people who were displaced from the four units in the heavily-damaged structure are being helped by volunteers with the local chapter of American Red Cross.

As THE BEE went to press, fire investigators had not yet publicly reported the cause of the fire in this large apartment complex.


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