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Gresham houses damaged by fire

Neighbors act swiftly to alert residents

The sides of two houses on Northeast 23rd Street in Gresham went up in flames Friday night, but quick action by nearby residents got the occupants out safely, and firefighters were able to quell the fire within about five minutes.

"I looked out my window and I saw sparks going up," said Evan Crompton, 15. "At first I thought it was a bonfire, but then I saw flames shooting up the side of the house, and I didn't even think, I just ran outside yelling 'Fire! Fire!' "

Crompton and his neighbor, Linda Carlton, sprinted across the street and banged on the door of a rental house at 225 N.E. 23 St., yelling for everyone to get out. The residents, Nick and Victoria Lukenovich, their three children, Nicky, 10, Kyle and Caitlyn, both 8, and Victoria's brother, Richard, came running out along with their pets.

Gresham Fire Chief Scott Lewis said at the scene he could not say what caused the fire, but he did say it was something "outside, between the two houses." When asked if it could have been electrical, he said he didn't know and that a fire investigator was on his way.

The flames shot up a 40-foot tree in front of the rental property, singeing the upper branches. Once the flames were doused, firefighters set about cutting into the home's attic, which was still smoldering.

Carlton, who lives across the street with her sister, Barbara Payne, said the fire was scary for the neighbors, many of who have lived on the block for decades.

"It just went up in seconds," she said. "I've never seen a fire before, so I didn't realize how fast it could happen. It was horrible. All I could think about was the kids."

As firefighters scaled the roofs of the burned homes, the Lukenovich family huddled on Carlton's lawn, clearly shaken.

Carlton said she felt especially bad for the couple that lives in the second affected home.

"They're newlyweds who bought that house and just remodeled it," she said. "They work at Mt. Hood Community College, and I think they're on vacation right now. They're just going to be devastated."

The firefighters, Carlton said, were "awesome."

"They were amazing," she said. "They got here in less than five minutes and that fire was out."