PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The two people who died in the 4-alarm fire that destroyed a Northeast Portland apartment complex were adults, officials with Portland Fire & Rescue said Tuesday.
The blaze that swept through Heidi Manor on NE Weidler in the early morning hours of July 4 also injured 6 people. It’s not clear how serious their injuries are, and officials have not released the names of any victims.
Crews with PFR secured the structure on Tuesday, making it possible for investigators to go inside on Wednesday. There is no official cause of the fire, but PFR officials said it is possible fireworks were involved. Again, no official cause has been determined.
Neighbors who spoke with KOIN 6 News said they were worried the fire would spread as they watched embers and ash fall.
“I woke up at 3 a.m. to the fire, fire trucks everywhere, trying to put the potential fires at my own apartment,” Christine Cordner said.
Neighbors and neighboring businesses began grassroots efforts to help all those affected by the fire. Spin Laundry is accepting clothes at their laundromat on Broadway.
“Everyone lost everything in that fire. Our hearts go out to them. It happened in our own backyard,” said Anthony Fusaro of Spin Laundry Lounge. “We want to do our small laundry part to make a small difference and help them get on their feet again.”
Details are being worked out on how the clothes will be distributed to those who need them. Neighbors are also trying to reunite people with cats they say are missing, along with items they might need.
City codes for sprinkler systems, fire alarm
The Portland Fire Bureau said there are about 6500 buildings in Portland that do not contain sprinkler systems used to help douse or slow the spread of a fire — and are not required to.
KOIN 6 News learned the Heidi Manor apartment building that burned on Saturday was built in 1972 when sprinkler systems and general alarms were not required.
Richard Rogers with the Oregon Building Codes Division told KOIN 6 News Oregon first adopted a sprinkler requirement into its building code October 1, 1990 for apartment buildings that were more than 2 stories tall and contained 16 or more units.
On October 1, 2004 it was amended to require that all apartments had to be sprinkled, regardless of height or number of units.
United Fire, a Portland company who services such systems and fire alarms, laid out what it would take to modernize apartments with up-to-date technology.
“If there’s an existing sprinkler system, it’s not going to be that much to fix it,” said Jason Wallace of United Fire. “If there’s a fire alarm system, it’s not going to be that much to retrofit it. It’s when you do like more than a third of your building for the retrofit, then you have to bring the whole building up to code. And that, that can break the bank. That can go from a couple thousand dollars to $50,000 real quick.”
All new apartment buildings are required to have sprinkler systems and alarms. In Portland, the fire bureau reviews and approves sprinkler system designs and enforces that they work properly.