‘I’m so incredibly grateful’: Woman shares story after jumping to escape Portland apartment fire

Published: Nov. 3, 2022 at 10:08 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - Haley Haskins says she’s grateful to be alive. She suffered burns on her arm and face but, less than a week after a two-alarm fire at her apartment off Southwest Barnes Road, they’re healing just fine.

“I’m so incredibly grateful, like beyond grateful and I feel really strong for getting through this,” Haskins said. “I will definitely have a change in outlook on life.”

She was fast asleep when the fire started around 3 a.m. and said something outside woke her up.

“Not the noise of a fire alarm, but the noise of loud, like, banging and popping and cracking noise,” she said.

She couldn’t imagine the scene she’d see when she opened her door.

“It looked like straight out of a movie, the flames were so big, I couldn’t even see the door across from me,” Haskins said.

She said she had seconds to make a life-saving decision as the thick smoke filled her apartment.

“I just barreled out of the window. Thankfully, not on concrete it was onto some dirt and shrubs and my wrist thankfully took the fall for me, I’m so grateful my legs are fine, I can walk,” she said.

It was also a heartbreaking decision for her because she had to leave her cats Rigby and Hercules behind.

“I tried to find my kitties, but I couldn’t,” she said through tears. “I miss them so much.”

Haskins and seven other people were hospitalized because of smoke inhalation and burns. She said her kidney was lacerated from the jump and she even had to have surgery on her wrist, which now has plates and screws.

It’ll be a long road to recovery for her wrist to heal, and to process the trauma she’s endured from this fire.

However, she said if just one person can learn a lesson from this tragedy, that would make speaking about her experience worth it.

“Always have a plan for emergency situations because you never know when that’s going to happen. Just do what you need to do to get out,” she said. Like Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue, Haskins said people should have an escape ladder.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office arrested 51-year-old Wendy Southam, who they said intentionally set the fire at the 81 Fifty at West Hills Apartments. She made her first, virtual appearance in court Thursday, facing arson and animal abuse charges, among others.

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

“She was the only person in the apartment complex that I knew. She was my next-door neighbor and she apologized to me for it after the fire. I just can’t believe this is real,” she said.

Haskins’ friends have set up a GoFundMe to help pay for her hospital bills. If you’d like to help, you can donate here.