Police officer hospitalized for smoke inhalation as precaution, released same day unharmed

A fire in an apartment complex at 895 E. Lincoln St. in Woodburn on Saturday caused the death of the occupant, a 77-year-old man who lived alone at the complex.

The fire occurred around 4:30 a.m. Saturday in a single unit apartment at the complex, according to Woodburn Fire Chief Joe Budge. Two Woodburn police officers, Charlie Gill and Jesse Ponce, were the first to arrive and attempted to contact the victim.

The officers heard sounds from inside and tried to enter the apartment but were forced back by the smoke, according to Lt. Jason Millican of the Woodburn Police Department. Ponce was transported to the hospital for precautionary measures due to smoke inhalation, but ultimately was unharmed and returned to duty the same day.

Firefighters arrived within a minute and a half of the call and were able to remove the victim from the apartment. Police performed CPR before the victim was transported to Legacy Emanuel Hospital by Life Flight. The victim later died, likely from injuries caused by heat and smoke inhalation, Budge said.

"We thought he was going to survive but he just took too much heat," Budge said.

The fire started when clothes left on a baseboard heater ignited, Budge said. The heater's switch was found set to the on position when firefighters investigated the scene. The interior of the apartment was completely burned, but the fire didn't spread and neighbors in four nearby units were able to return to their homes after it was extinguished.

Personnel from Woodburn, Hubbard, Monitor and Aurora fire districts all responded to the incident. The name of the victim was not available before press time.

Patrick Evans
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