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May-03-2010 02:13printcommentsVideo

96 Firefighters Battle 3-Alarm Book Store Blaze in Portland

It is a real loss in many regards, but nobody was hurt.

Fire in Portland, Oregon 2 May 2010
Image snapped from a YouTube video, courtesy: KATU

(PORTLAND, Ore.) - Fire crews in Portland have stayed very busy at a serious commercial structure fire. It happened at the Great Northwest Bookstore, located at 3314 SW 1st in Portland.

Crews will remain on scene throughout the night extinguishing hot spots, according to Lt. Dave Centers with Portland Fire & Rescue. He says investigators will also be on scene tonight and tomorrow.

"The structure is not stable for fire crews and investigators to enter at this time," Centers said.

"Engineers will meet with investigators in the morning to determine when they can enter the structure. At this time there are no estimates on building and content values and losses."

Traffic on the major streets in the area is now open. Initially there were hose lines across SW Barbur and SW Naito Parkway, which closed these major streets during the fire.

In this video, smoke pours over downtown Portland from Sunday's
fire, captured on KATU's River Camera. PORTLAND, Ore.

Lt. Centers says fire crews responded to the commercial fire at 2:12 p.m. The first arriving crews discovered smoke showing from the north side basement/first floor doors.

The building is an old church which now houses Great Northwest Bookstore. Crews that initially attacked the blaze entered the structure for an Interior/Offensive fire attack, Centers said.

"They encountered a large volume of smoke and fire. Other arriving first alarm companies found fire and smoke extending from the 2nd floor. Chief officers arrived and ordered all crews to withdraw from the building."

He says the Chief in command immediately accounted for all firefighters.

"The fire transitioned to a Defensive/Exterior operation and a 2nd alarm was called at 1423. A 3rd alarm was called at 1453; bringing a total of 96 firefighters to the scene."

Challenges that fire companies encountered were 2 buildings in close proximity to the burning building.

Another view of Portland's 1st St. Book store fire from YouTube user watchforice

Another challenge was the large volume of water needed to fight the fire and protect the 2 exposure buildings. The Water Bureau was notified to boost the pressure in the area, Centers said.

OregonLive reports that the fire cost owner Phil Wikelund more than an historic structure; more than 100,000 books at the Great Northwest Bookstore also went up in flames Sunday.

The building is 120 years old, it is located in the historical Lair Hill neighborhood. Wikeland was devastated, watching his business disappear. There were many witnesses; investigators spoke to more than 50.

Red Cross

Sunday evening just before 6:30 p.m., American Red Cross Disaster Action Team team members were called to the fire at 3300 block of SW 1st Avenue.

Red Cross Spokesman Tom Traver says their crews were advised by fire officials that one of the bookstore walls had the potential to fall onto a four-unit condominium, located a few feet from the property.

"Of the four units, two were not accessible due to debris, and declared uninhabitable for the night."

"One adult and a dog received assistance with lodging, food and clothing," Traver said.

The residents of the second uninhabitable unit have not been located.

Red Cross volunteers will remain in contact with fire officials and residents to help as much as possible at this difficult time.

The total amount of fire Equipment dispatched to the scene, included: 12 Engines, 7 Trucks, 1 Heavy Rescue, 1 Rescue, 6 Chiefs, 1 Rehab Unit, 1 Air Unit, 1 Mobile Command Unit, and 2 Investigators.

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.


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