UPDATE: Fire damages Prune Tree apartments on Mill Plain

Neighbors alerted man in downstairs apartment, where it started




A fast arrival time of only four minutes helped firefighters knock down flames in two units of The Prune Tree apartments before the blaze spread to two more units, officials said Tuesday evening.

No one was reported injured.

“There was a huge plume of smoke,” said Jessica Donnelly of Vancouver, who was driving by and stopped.

At 5 p.m. Tuesday, firefighters were called to the apartment complex at 1914 E. Mill Plain Blvd., near Hudson’s Bay High School.

“They saw heavy smoke and fire coming from a bottom unit of a four-plex,” said Firefighter-paramedic Kevin Stromberg with the Vancouver Fire Department.

Neighbors had alerted a man who lives in that bottom unit, and other renters, Stromberg said.

Flames that started in the bedroom flared out the window and up toward the unit above.

Firefighters knocked down the flames and checked for extension to upstairs units. The flames licked up the siding, damaging the upstairs unit and a portion of the attic.

No other apartments were reported damaged.

Engine 3, based at Mill Plain and Devine Road, arrived first. A total of 21 firefighters, including an engine crew from Fire District 6 in Hazel Dell, had the fire under control in 15 minutes.

The crew of a ladder truck parked in an adjacent complex and extended the ladder and its hoses right above the two units that were affected.

The quick arrival helped firefighters save the two other units, Stromberg said. The cause remained under investigation.

Damage was estimated at $80,000 to the building and $20,000 for its contents.

The older complex had no sprinkler system, said Capt. Chris Moen.

Firefighters first said the unit had no working smoke alarm but later said there was one.

A man who lives in the unit where the fire started had a smoke detector in the bedroom, but the door was closed and he didn’t hear it before neighbors alerted him, Stromberg said.

Prune Tree managers check the units’ smoke detectors each November, Stromberg said.

Free smoke alarms are available

Those who can’t afford smoke detectors and live in Vancouver and Fire District 5 can call their nearest fire station, Stromberg said.

Vancouver firefighters, using a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have installed more than 1,000 free smoke detectors in the past six months.

If requested, firefighters will come to a home and check out the smoke detectors, and replace them if needed, Stromberg said.

He said it’s best to have a smoke alarm in each bedroom and a gathering place, and on each floor of a home.

Volunteers with the American Red Cross were called to assist tenants who may be displaced. Clark Public Utilities also came to disconnect the power.

The two-story wood-frame apartment complex is owned by a Portland holding company.

Westbound traffic was blocked along Mill Plain by fire vehicles.

John Branton: 360-735-4513 or john.branton@columbian.com.