A major fire Wednesday evening engulfed a building at Autumn Chase Apartments, a modern complex at 11301 N.E. Seventh St., east of Interstate 205. Four people were reported injured.
The fire raged through the I Building at the complex. It took firefighters only 35 minutes to control the fire, but by then, 16 units had been affected, said Bryan Fredrickson of the Vancouver Fire Department.
The fire was reported at 5:48 p.m. The first person to spot the fire was apparently Alex Farias, an advanced-repair technician for Xfinity. Farias said he was looking for a cable box when he saw light smoke wafting from an exterior hallway of the I Building.
Farias said he walked over to the hallway. Through a window of a ground-floor unit, he saw a fire burning near the stove. The fire was quickly growing, he said, and as he backed away from the window, it exploded. He then went to the front door, opened it, and began shouting for any occupants.
Just then, the tenant, who had apparently been nearby in the complex’s office, returned. Hysterical, she tried to enter the apartment, but was restrained by Dillion Beierle, 28, a maintenance worker who lives at the complex.
Beierle said he was driving away when he saw the smoke and the woman running toward her apartment. He stopped, got out of his vehicle and grabbed her as she tried to enter the burning building.
“She was more worried about her stuff than her life,” Beierle said.
As he held her, he saw the flames spreading up the wall to the second floor.
Both Beierle and Farias went around to other apartments, knocking on doors and warning tenants of the fire. A woman with a baby, who lived upstairs, was evacuated.
Michael MacDuff, 23, lives in a neighboring building. He said someone jumped from a second-floor balcony as the fire became intense.
The couple who had called for cable service, Luke Bome, 28, and Cleopal Trevillyan, 22, said they were waiting for Farias to return from finding the cable box when a neighbor warned them of a fire. Bome grabbed a small fire extinguisher, went to the burning apartment and discharged it, but it had little effect as the fire grew.
The apartment complex consists of multiple two-story, wood-frame buildings, each holding several apartments. It is owned by a San Francisco company, Jackson Square Properties.
Major elements assigned to the fire included eight engines and two ladder trucks from Vancouver, Camas-Washougal and Portland. Approximately 20 firefighters responded, Fredrickson said.
There was no immediate word on the cause of the fire or the extent of the injuries to the people who went to the hospital.
This was one of a nearly dozen calls, including fires, crashes and medical emergencies, keeping firefighters busy in Clark County as of 6 p.m.
Temperatures were in excess of 90 degrees as firefighters worked in the summer heat.