NE Portland apartment fire kills 2, injures 4; not all residents accounted for,

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Two people died and four were injured in a Northeast Portland apartment fire early Sunday morning, according to Portland Fire & Rescue.

The fire was reported at 2226 N.E. Weidler just after 3:30 a.m., and responding firefighters found two wood-framed apartment buildings in flames. The fire was quickly upgraded to a four-alarm fire, drawing a larger response.

Ricky Jackson, a Portland resident who was staying overnight with two tenants in the apartment complex, said he was awake when the fire started and first saw flames in a dumpster underneath a wooden structure in front of the building. He said he saw the fire roll up the stairs from the dumpster.

Jackson said he and the tenants he was staying with began banging on doors to wake people up and tell them to evacuate.

He said the fire burnt the stairs, forcing residents to run from the west side building across the walkway to the east side building to escape, with little time to make life-or-death decisions. He said he saw a person become engulfed in flames as he tried to escape.

“He just slumped down in the sitting position, feet out back against the rail,” Jackson said. “[He] never moved, he started burning.”

Jackson said he saw at least two other people sustained injuries when they jumped off a three-story balcony.

“I would just hate to have to make the choices they had to make,” Jackson said.

The two apartment buildings were destroyed in the fire. A third building in the same apartment complex was partially damaged, but crews were able to prevent further damage to the third building, said Terry Foster, a spokesperson for Portland Fire & Rescue.

Portland Police homicide and arson detectives were on the scene Sunday morning.

Foster said the cause of the fire is under investigation. Officials said fireworks were heard near the apartment building shortly before the fire, but they couldn’t confirm whether the fireworks may have caused the fire.

The two people who died in the fire have not been identified. The Portland Police Bureau said fire crews have not been able to locate all residents of the two buildings.

“The magnitude of this fire moved so quick that people had little time to escape and many did not,” Fire Chief Sara Boone said in a statement. “This is a tragic day for our City. I want to first acknowledge the pain and suffering of the victims and their families. I also want to praise the heroic efforts of the firefighters and residents that worked together to save so many victims under extreme conditions. If not for their efforts there would be a much greater loss.”

Investigators are asking anyone who witnessed the fire or has information about the fire to call 503-823-4636 or e-mail Detective Meredith Hopper at Meredith.Hopper@portlandoregon.gov.

— Ardeshir Tabrizian; atabrizian@oregonian.com; 503-929-3053; @ardytabrizian



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