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Originally published August 8, 2013 at 7:19 AM | Page modified August 8, 2013 at 8:17 AM

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Fire guts Oregon building under construction

An early morning fire gutted a five-story apartment building under construction and heavily damaged two homes in a northeast Portland neighborhood Thursday, but no one was injured.

The Associated Press

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PORTLAND, Ore. —

An early morning fire gutted a five-story apartment building under construction and heavily damaged two homes in a northeast Portland neighborhood Thursday, but no one was injured.

The apartment construction was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived at about 4:15 a.m. Police helped evacuate about a dozen homes that were threatened, and power was shut off in a four-block area.

"Protecting nearby residences and evacuating residents was a huge focus originally," Portland Fire and Rescue Lt. Rich Chatman said. "Most of the people at home were sleeping."

Every available firefighter and piece of equipment responded - seven ladder trucks, more than two dozen engines and more than 120 firefighters.

The apartment building eventually collapsed and nearly fell on a fire engine, but the crew was able to move the truck out of the way in time, Chatman said. He added the blaze turned the structure into a smoldering "debris pile."

It will take some time before investigators can start looking for the cause of the fire. The building had been framed, but Chatman didn't know if electricity had been turned on in it.

At that stage in construction, there was nothing to slow the flames.

"It didn't have a lot of the fire stops and prevention methods - no drywall - you would normally see," Chatman said.

It was the city's first five-alarm fire since a blaze destroyed a vacant Jantzen Beach hotel in September of last year.

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