PORTLAND, Ore. - A massive fire in NE Portland on Thursday morning leveled a five-story apartment building that was under construction.
Firefighters were still putting out the fire at NE Monroe St. and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. at 5:45 a.m.
The call for the five-alarm fire was placed at 4:14 a.m., and the fire spread to some neighboring homes. By the time first crews arrived, the entire building was up in flames and it quickly collapsed.
Five alarms is the largest possible response by the Portland Fire Bureau.
Early indications were that construction materials inside the building contributed to the magnitude and speed of the fire.
Portland Fire Bureau spokesman Rich Chatman said the fire was so large, the 120 firefighters on hand were forced to take a defensive posture. No firefighters were inside the building; instead, they focused on getting water on the outside of the building to prevent it from spreading more than it already had.
"That under-construction phase is an extremely vulnerable time for a building like that," Chatman said. "They don’t have the sprinkler systems, they don’t have the drywall – just the normal fire-stops they put in construction like that.
"We’ve had fires like that before. We had a large one about 15 years ago in Portland that was a similar situation and it ends up being –especially with that size of building – that’s a big fire that spreads quickly."
Power was out in an eight-block radius around the fire.
MLK Blvd.was shut down between NE Fremont St. and NE Knott St.
It was one of the largest fires in Portland in recent memory. The last five-alarm fire in Portland was at the Thunderbird on the River hotel in North Portland last September.
Chatman said so much water was needed to fight the fire that crews had to coordinate with the Portland Water Bureau.
Neighbors in one nearby home said the noise was so loud, they thought somebody was trying to break into their house. Ayo Bele Obilene said somebody in his house, which is about 100 yards away, was awoken by the fire.
Obilene left the house so quickly, he left his shoes and glasses behind.
“When the fire was raging, we could feel the heat,” he said.
Mayor Charlie Hales arrived at the scene at about 6:25 a.m.
Witnesses said a duplex nearby was destroyed, but there was no confirmation from fire officials.
"It just goes to show you the power of fire," said neighbor Moulik Kathari.
No injuries were reported. The entire block was evacuated.