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$300,000 apartment fire damages 6 units; families left without homes | Slideshow

A fire broke out Tuesday night at the Newporter Apartment buildings, driving dozens of residents into the streets as firefighters fought the flames. Two units were directly damaged and at least four more suffered water and smoke damage. Initial estimates predict $300,000 worth of repairs, said Lt. Troy Donlin, a spokesperson for the Bellevue Fire Department.

The fire department received several calls at 8:21 p.m. The crews, which took seven minutes to respond, determined the flames were coming from the attic of Building A of the complex, at 5900 119th Ave S.E. in the Newport Hills neighborhood.

Donlin credits the fire department for its smart assessment of the situation. He says the crew, though they were operating at night, knew they were dealing with an older building, without a sprinkler system.

“We were pretty lucky,” said Donlin. “The firefighters that responded were very efficient in their efforts to stop the damage from happening.”

Though normally crews will vent fires from above, and fight from below, this time they cut holes in the sides of the building, allowing the heat to escape so that it did not run the length of the structure. It took 45 minutes to control the flames.

“I have a friend that lives in the A building on the first floor and I immediately thought about him,” said D.J. Porcincula, 15, of Newport High School. “I ran out of my apartment to go and try and find him.”

Porcincula lives with his mother on the opposite side of the complex. He wasn’t sure about the source of the fire, but can remember hearing alarms sounding, and the fire trucks nearby.

“There have been other small kitchen fires,” he said. “But nothing this big.”

The surrounding community responded immediately. Pastor Paul Burnham of Newport Hills Community Church across the way, opened his doors to the six displaced families.

“People were standing out in the cold,” said Burnham. “Many of them came in and got coffee and hot cocoa because they had to wait several hours.”

From there, the American Red Cross took over, placing displaced families in a hotel overnight. Burnham and his wife, Leona, will be hosting a fundraiser breakfast from 9-11 a.m., Saturday, Dec. 8 at the church, 5833 119th Ave. SE. All donations will go toward the families and practical items, like furniture and giftcards.

Newporter Apartments is a low-income housing unit with many residents living near, or below the poverty line.

No one was injured in the fire, and clean-up continued the next day.

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