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Woman dies in morning apartment fire


Two others rescued from burning complex

A woman died in a two-alarm fire at a Southeast Portland apartment complex on Friday, Nov. 2.

Berna Dizer, 56, of Portland died despite being carried out of her apartment at the Anderson Villa apartment complex, 15780 S.E. Division St. Two residents had to climb down ladders to escape the fire, which injured three and displaced a total of 10 tenents.

Crews from Station 31, which is jointly staffed by Portland and Gresham fire departments, were first to respond to the blaze at 8:27 a.m. Friday, Nov. 2. While still en route, firefighters saw a giant column of black smoke rising from the scene and immediately called for a second alarm, said Portland Fire & Rescue Spokesman Ron Rouse.

The fire consumed Dizer's first-story unit and a second-story unit above it, Rouse said. It also was spreading to the attic and filling a stairwell to two other units with smoke.

"Despite working smoke alarms that alerted the occupants, the fire spread quickly and several people were unable to escape," said Lt. Damon Simmons, another Portland Fire & Rescue spokesman.

Three people were unable to get out of their apartments because heavy fire and smoke had blocked their escape route.

Firefighters used ladders to rescue two people from an upstairs apartment. Two people were treated at the scene. A third was transported to a local hospital, treated and released.

"Tragically, despite being carried from the burning lower apartment, one person died," Simmons said.

Fire Chief Erin Janssens said, "Our hearts go out to the family and friends who have lost their loved ones. ... This is a tragic loss."

Crews from a total of six fire stations — Portland stations 7, 29 and jointly staffed station 31, plus stations 71, 73 and 74 in Gresham — extinguished the fire, which took about 20 minutes to get under control. It was fully extinguished by 9:20 a.m. Damage

Residents from four apartments have been displaced because the fire has made those units uninhabitable. The American Red Cross is helping those 10 tenants with shelter and clothing. Structural damage is estimated at $190,000.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Gresham Battalion Chief Mark Maunder doesn't understand how the fire wasn't called in earlier before it grew so large — especially on such a busy street during the morning commute.

Steam from a dryer vent mistaken for smoke gets three phone calls, he said. “It just goes to show how fast those fires get going,” Maunder said.