Devastating downtown Portland fire survivor recounts terrifying morning

It’s been two days since a fire ripped through the May Apartments in Southwest Portland and survivors are still sharing stories of survival.
Published: May. 18, 2023 at 6:39 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - It’s been two days since a fire ripped through the May Apartments in Southwest Portland and survivors are still sharing stories of survival.

Over the last day, crews put up a fence around the building to keep people away. Officials said the building is still unsafe and could collapse. Evidence of the dangers can be seen by bricks and debris from a  fourth floor wall littering Southwest 14th Avenue.

Nicholas Gomez is one of those who escaped the fire Tuesday morning. At first, he didn’t think the anything serious was happening because over the last two years he’s lived in the building, there have been consistent false alarms. Gomez said he was about to go to sleep after staying up all night when he stated to hear commotion from firefighters around his apartment building.

“We looked out the window because we could hear all of this stuff going on,” Gomez said. “It looked like they were trying to break into the car right in front of my window. I thought someone might have been trapped in there. I saw glass, but I didn’t realize glass was coming down from the building.”

Gomez went out into his hallway and saw firefighters telling people to get out quickly. He went outside, and even then he thought he would be going back.

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“When we got outside, I saw the building up in flames,” Gomez said. “I still thought things we were going to be okay.”

But it was the moment when he saw smoke and flames spread towards his ex-partner’s apartment that he knew he wouldn’t be going back. A woman nearby told him to immediately call his insurance company as the flames started to spread. Then he saw his ex-partner and his dog Blue, standing on the fire escape looking for help.

“I see him on the fire escape and I’m screaming,” Gomez said. “There’s nothing we can really do and he can’t hear me.”

A photo capture by Portland Fire and Rescue shows the moment Blue and Gomez’s ex-partner were saved by firefighters. It’s a dramatic shot in time that encompasses the chaos of Tuesday morning. A day that Gomez said he’s still trying to process.

“I think things are starting to settle in and the apathy is starting to settle in,” Gomez said. “I kind of just don’t want to do anything anymore. I worked hard to get to where I was at. To have all of the stuff I had  [gone]  it just seems kind of pointless. To have to do that all over again. I’m still optimistic but you can’t help but feel that way.”

Gomez said that he feels grateful his insurance company is covering his hotel through the end of June and he has a big circle of friends that can help him get back onto his feet. His friend set up a GoFundMe and you can find that by clicking here.

Officials said the investigation starts Friday.