Portland woman arrested in connection with Cedar Mill apartment fire that injured 8

1 firefighter treated for heat exhaustion
Published: Oct. 29, 2022 at 8:43 AM PDT
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WASHINGTON COUNTY, Ore. (KPTV) - A 51-year-old Portland woman was arrested Wednesday in connection to a Saturday morning apartment building fire in the Cedar Mill area that injured eight, according to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

Detectives working with Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue investigators determined the blaze at the 81 Fifty at West Hills apartments on Southwest Barnes Road was set intentionally, police said.

On Wednesday, police arrested Wendy Kay Southam and charged her with arson, assault, animal abuse and criminal mischief. She was booked into the Washington County Jail.

Emergency responders had arrived at the apartment building just after 3 a.m. on Saturday morning to find flames in the windows, roof and stairwell. They rescued seven people who were trapped inside as well as multiple pets. Several pets died in the fire.

Some of the residents jumped from the second floor to escape the fire. Eight people needed to be taken to the hospital. Some of them jumped from the second floor to escape the fire. Others suffered smoke inhalation and burns. One firefighter was treated for heat exhaustion.

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TVF&R called for a second alarm and firefighters continued to attack the fire, brining it under control just before 5 a.m. At least four units were damaged, the raging fire leaving behind smoke, broken windows and ash.

“You go to bed, and you never think you’d wake up to something so terrible,” resident Chayla Rodgers said. “I woke up to a loud boom.”

After Rodgers saw the flames from her window, she called 911 and heard someone calling out for help.

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“It sounded like she was saying, ‘I need a towel, I need a towel,’” Rodgers said. “So I grabbed a towel. There was this young girl and she showed me her wrist and it was completely broken. It was like in the shape of an ‘s’ and half of her face was burnt. She was traumatized and said, ‘Is my face ok?’ I said, ‘you’re fine.’”

She said the girl had to escape the flames by jumping from her window.

“She said, ‘I had to jump out. I woke up and I had to jump out,’” Rodgers said.

Authorities are working with apartment managers to help the more than 20 residents find shelter.

The fire investigation is ongoing, police said.