Gas explosion destroys Portland building, 8 injured


PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Three firefighters, 2 police officers and 3 others were injured in a large gas explosion Wednesday morning in Northwest Portland.

The incident happened at NW 23rd Avenue and Glisan Street in the Dosha Salon Spa building. Officials with Portland Fire & Rescue confirmed the injuries and said no one died as a result of the explosion.

PF&R Lt. Rich Chatman said the firefighters affected all sustained non-life-threatening injuries. One of the firefighters was taken into surgery Wednesday afternoon for a broken leg.

The police officer’s injuries were not significant, Lt. Chatman said.

Two of the firefighters and the officer were taken to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center. The others are being treated at Oregon Health & Science University.

By 12:30 p.m. only one person remained at Legacy Emanuel. Three people were released and the 4th person is one of the firefighters suffering from a broken leg.

In a statement released around 3 p.m., NW Natural said a contractor dug into one of its gas lines at 500 NW 23rd Avenue around 8:55 a.m. Fifteen minutes later, NW Natural crews evacuated the building.

The explosion happened at 9:38 a.m. Firefighters were already inside investigating the reported gas leak. Officials said they don’t know what caused the ignition.

“I’ve been a firefighter for 28 years and I have not seen devastation like this,” PF&R Chief Mike Myers said. “If it wasn’t for the efforts of a few firefighters today, and a very special leader in our organization who made some very serious and very important decisions, I’m afraid we’d be having a different discussion.”

Around 100 firefighters were still fighting hotspots and assessing damages at noon.

Chief Myers commended firefighters who were “calm, collected and made very, very good decisions that saved lives.” The chief, who has only been with PF&R for 90 days, said he is “very impressed with the training and dedication of these firefighters.”

NW Natural CEO/President David Anderson said another 115 gas customers in the area had service shut down, and all structures within 100 yards have been checked by NW Natural crews. A leak survey was conducted in a 2-block radius and officials are keeping an eye on infrastructure. Three blocks around the building remain closed.

Witnesses recall explosion: “We heard and saw these huge booms”

The COO of Dosha Salon Spa Kimberly Johnson tells KOIN 6 News the salon was evacuated before the explosion happened. She said all of her employees were safe.

“We came in to start our day at 9 a.m. and smelled something funny, so we called the gas company,” Allison Williams, who was inside Dosha at the time, said. “They promptly told us to get out of the building. We were outside and not that far from the building when we heard and saw these huge booms, the building exploded, the glass was shattered and it instantly burst in flames. It was pretty scary.”

Once the explosion happened, Williams said firefighters “were instantly in action. Smoke made it hard to see, but they were instantly doing their job.”

“They were amazing,” Williams said.

Photos: Gas explosion rocks Portland neighborhood

Johnson said Dosha recently celebrated 25 years in business. They had a flood and recently rebuilt, she said, and had been back open for about the past 7 months.

The building has won many architectural awards and currently has owner-occupants, Johnson said.

Employees at Portland Bagelworks said they were evacuated before the explosion as well and that all of their employees are accounted for. They said a construction crew warned them to evacuate after hitting a gas line.

Many witnesses told KOIN 6 News they heard a loud explosion and buildings in the area shook. Plumes of smoke could be seen from many places in the city.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is on scene investigating the explosion. It is protocol for them to come when large explosions occur, Lt. Chatman told KOIN 6 News.

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