Couple escape apartment inferno; help neighbor jump to safety

Portland

When Willita Ross and Dewayne Perry walked out of their apartment, they stepped into an inferno

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A couple who survived the apartment complex fire in Northeast Portland early Sunday morning said they feel lucky to be alive, but if it weren’t for a phone call from a neighbor, things could have gone differently for them. 

Willita Ross and Dewayne Perry said they received a call at around 3:30 a.m. Sunday, warning them that their apartment complex, the Heidi Manor at 2226 NE Weidler St., was up in flames. 

“When we walked out of the apartment, the whole entire upstairs floor was engulfed in flames,” Ross described. 

She and her fiancé, Perry, walked into an inferno. 

Perry said the flames spread like wildfire while neighbors were trapped in their homes. 

“I heard a lady say, ‘Help me! Please don’t leave me!’ And I turned around and it was my homeboy’s mom so I had to help her,” Perry said. 

He said another man stepped in to help him. 

“I don’t know how I ended up seeing him, I said, ‘Man, will you help me get my friend’s mom out?’” Perry said. 

In the chaos, Perry saw another man trapped as well. 

“The fire just kept, like, just whipping him,” he said. “I was like, you better jump, better jump. I thought he was going to jump.” 

Two people died in a 4-alarm blaze that destroyed the Heidi Manor apartments on NE Weidler in Portland, July 4, 2021 (KOIN)

“There was a man up there who didn’t make it,” Ross said, talking about someone on the floor above where they lived. “We almost lost our whole family, everybody that lives there. We lost everything.” 

Willita credits firefighters for saving Lala and Cotton, her most precious possessions; her dogs that they had to leave behind in the home. 

“We didn’t know for a long time [if they survived]. That my dogs were in there and then they called and said, ‘You can come get your babies they are inside the house.’ They risked their lives to save them and they tried to save everybody. They tried,” Ross said. 

Ross is a peer support supervisor at Unity Center for Behavioral Health. She helps clients in recovery or mental health crises. Now, co-workers are stepping in to help her and have created a GoFundMe for the devastated couple. 

Sullivan’s Gulch Aid List

“We all lost everything and we were a close-knit family, everybody that lived there,” Ross said. 

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. 

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