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Two-alarm blaze damages woodworking shop roof


by: DAVID F. ASHTON - As smoke fills the building, a firefighter observes flames and smoke rising, while standing on the adjacent structure. It’s been a long time since he’d worked on a Saturday, at his business of six years, reflected Neel Briggs of Big Branch Woodworking. His shop is located at 4621 S.E. 27th Avenue in the Reed neighborhood, just south of, and on the same block as, Memory Lane Motors, Pacific Overhead Door, and Beez Holgate Station restaurant.

But Briggs said he’d gone in to catch up on some of the work, during the day, on March 2nd. “We’ve had a pretty busy schedule this year, and we’ve started working a half-day on Saturdays to catch up with our schedule,” Briggs told THE BEE.

Later that evening, Briggs got a phone call that a business owner never wants to take – one telling him that that the building in which his furniture shop is located was on fire.

The fire brought a response from several area Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) stations.

When the crew on Woodstock’s Engine 25 arrived, at 7:55 pm, they reported back to their dispatcher that there was smoke coming from the back of the large warehouse-like structure.

“Fire crews entered the building, encountered a large amount of smoke, and began searching for the fire,” said PF&R Public Information Officer AJ Schaffer.

When flames started rising from the building’s roof, the Truck 25 crew extended their aerial ladder to help firefighters gain immediate roof access, to began extinguishing the fire from above.

Just as THE BEE arrived, at 8:03 pm, Fire Command issued a second alarm, bringing additional firefighters and equipment to the scene. “The additional fire crews were needed to protect adjacent buildings due to the proximity of the fire,” explained Schaffer.

As the fire on the roof appeared to increase in intensity, the ladder from what was believed to be Truck 4 arose within the smoke, through which it was barely visible.

Then, at 8:13, Engine 21’s crew readied a “fog nozzle” on a two-and-a-half-inch waterline, which let loose a deluge of water. As the flood of water hit the roof, there was a loud “foomp” sound – and, the next instant, the roof fire was out, as if someone had turned off a switch.

The burning building contained several spaces that were interconnected. Firefighters used a heavy-duty portable circular saw to cut through the steel door of the structure, and once inside, at 8:36 pm, firefighters brought the interior fire under control.

“No injuries were reported,” Schaffer said. “Portland Fire Investigators have not yet released the fire cause or damage estimates.”

A couple weeks after the fire, Briggs told THE BEE that the fire damage had been cleaned up, but the walls inside the finishing department of his shop were still charred. During a brief tour of the area, he observed that his metal “paint booth” had survived the blaze.

“It’s obviously affected my finishing department, and that affects our production schedule,” Briggs said. “Most of our business is making custom cabinets and furniture for home remodeling contractors. So, we’re working hard to keep our schedule intact and make deliveries on time.”