Wow. Today at city hall was shaping up to be the Most Boring Day Ever®, with just five regular agenda items at the council meeting--the most discussed being one about an aborted contract to provide a new city computer system. Thankfully, it was also about the shortest meeting ever.

After tumbling out of council chambers in a semi-comatose state, Commissioner Nick Fish got my attention when he asked if I "wanted to have some fun." Um, yeah!

A three-alarm fire was blazing in NE Portland, and Fish--as the commissioner in charge of the Fire Bureau--was headed out to the scene to check it out. He doesn't go to all fires, obviously, but a three-alarm one is a big deal. I hopped in a van with Fish and his staffer Jamaal Folsom (and my friend Brittany, who'd tagged along to city hall on the Most Boring Day Ever®, to write a paper for a poli-sci class on local government), as Fish explained that checking out major fires is "a learning tool for me." He also wants to "offer support for folks fighting the fire," and wants to be on hand should the worst happen, and a fire fighter is injured (a situation that seems far more likely in a big blaze like today's).

fishfire2.jpgOut at NE 105th and Sandy, Fish flashed his fire commissioner badge--and donned his "turnouts" and helmet (which, he was told at one of the first scenes he visited, he had been wearing backwards)--and we followed him in search of the scene commander. Fire Chief John Klum and Deputy Chief Glen Eisner briefed Fish on the situation, where a warehouse full of insulation was bellowing out brown smoke. "It's under control with our available resources," Klum told him. Fire fighters would still be on the scene through the night, Eisner estimated, putting out hot spots in the insulation. When we arrived, two cranes and a "bucket" truck were dousing the building from above, pumping out 1,000 gallons of water a minute from four spots. On the ground, more fire fighters trained their hoses on the piles of flaming insulation.

The building's owner was there, and Fish checked in with him. No one had been in the building when the fire started, and they aren't sure what sparked it--a neighboring business spotted the smoke and called it in. Speaking of the smoke, it smelled terrible, and Klum told us it was toxic, thanks to the polyethylene sheeting in the building (yay, arsenic!). "This is some of the worst smoke," Klum added.

More photos after the cut!