Chris Collins
The Baker City Herald

Nine adults and an infant were displaced by a fire that started just before midnight Monday at the Powder River Terrace apartments in south Baker City leaving three people injured.

Cliff Hall, interim fire chief, said firefighters were called to the 24-apartment complex at 1490 Resort St. at about 11:50 p.m. Monday.

When the first three firefighters arrived, the entryway of one of the three apartment units was fully engulfed in flames, Hall said. Each of the three stand-alone units includes eight apartments.

Four of the eight units in the complex that was damaged were left uninhabitable, two of the other four sustained minor damage and two were not damaged, Hall said.

One woman who uses a wheelchair and lives in a ground-floor apartment, was removed from the damaged building through a back window.

The cause of the fire has not been determined and is continuing today. An Oregon State Police arson investigator and a deputy state fire marshal were expected to arrive Tuesday, Hall said. Baker City Police Chief Wyn Lohner said the Baker County Major Crime Team also will help with the investigation.

Hall said the Fire Department was working with just three people rather than a usual four-person shift before other help arrived. The fourth person was out sick.

Baker City Police Officer Blake Hawkins helped Fire Department Lt. Sara Blair and firefighter Ryan Tachenko get the woman out of the apartment while the third firefighter, Jason Jacobs, attacked the blaze.

A total of eight Baker City firefighters responded with two engines and a command vehicle and about a half a dozen volunteers from both the Haines Fire Department and the Baker Rural Fire Protection District provided mutual aid to fight the fire. Baker Rural also brought two engines to the scene. None of the firefighters was injured, Hall said.

One resident was taken by ambulance to the hospital suffering from smoke inhalation and two others were taken by private vehicle — one who injured her ankle after jumping from a second-story window and another with complications of smoke inhalation, Blair said. Four cats were still missing Tuesday.

Two of those cats belong to Grace and Jerry Mothershed, said Roberta Fast, Grace’s mother, who had returned to the apartment complex Tuesday morning hoping to retrieve some of her daughter and son-in-law’s belongings and to look for the cats.

Fast said her daughter, one of the two taken to the hospital by private vehicle, was under observation in the intensive care unit at St. Alphonsus Medical Center in Baker City Tuesday with her husband at her side.

Fast said the couple was awakened by the sounding of a smoke alarm and first tried to leave through the front door of their upstairs apartment.

“They ran to the front room and looked out the window and saw flames,” Fast said. “The handle of the front door was too hot to touch, so they ran to the back bedroom and pushed the screen out.”

Fast said her son-in-law’s boots fell off as he attempted to leave the apartment so he hung from a ledge until a neighbor brought a ladder to help him get down without injury.

In the meantime, Grace called 911 and hung her head out the window to escape the smoke to the extent that was possible and called for help. Her breathing condition was worsened because she has multiple sclerosis, her mother said.

Neighbors and bystanders helped get two others out of the apartment by placing ladders at rear second-story windows, Hall said.

The Red Cross also responded to help.

See more in the June 7, 2017, issue of the Baker City Herald.

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