Back to back Gresham apartment fires puts strain on fire department resources

Published: Jul. 8, 2022 at 12:43 PM PDT
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GRESHAM, Ore. (KPTV) - The Gresham Fire Department responded to two separate fires Thursday night, just minutes apart. Both of those fires happening at the same time put a strain on the department’s resources.

Just after 10:50 p.m. on Thursday, GFD got a report of a fire at an apartment at the Sandstone Manor Apartments on Northeast Russell. Just two minutes later, they received another call about a fire in an unoccupied apartment just five minutes away on east burnside.

GFD said their resources were stretched so thin that they had to call Portland Fire and Rescue for help.

Laurie Fourmont lives at Tree Crest Apartments.

“The whole kitchen was on fire,” she said. “It was bad.”

Travis Soles, a captain with Gresham Fire said it is rare that crews have to respond to two major calls like this back to back, but it does happen. And when it does, their resources take a hit.

The city of Gresham staffs six fire engines with three crew members each, but it takes five of those engines to respond to just one apartment fire. That’s why GFD had to call for help Thursday night.

Portland fire sent three of its engines to the fire on NE Russell and another one to the fire on East Burnside.

“It’s actually pretty much cleaned us out, both Portland and us,” said Soles. He said while crews were responding to those calls, another call came in about a water rescue for a woman on the Columbia River.

“We have to respond from 160th back to our station with lights and sirens, to then switch out of our engine and get into out water rescue gear,” he said.

Soles said the coast guard made it to the scene before their crews did.

“The coast guard was able to locate and rescue here but they are the last resort when it comes to a water rescue,” he said.

Both fires in Gresham are still under investigation. Soles calls the circumstances surrounding the fire on East Burnside suspicious.

“A fire started in one that is not occupied is suspicious in and of itself,” he said.

A woman living in the complex said she believes she saw the person who started the fire moments before that unoccupied unit went up in flames.

" My dogs were freaking out on the porch, so I went to see what was wrong with them, the guy had broken into the apartment downstairs and I could physically see him inside,” she said.

To prevent a repeat of Thursday night, Gresham Fire officials are asking homeowners to make sure their smoke detectors are working and that their heating and cooling systems are properly maintained.