Fire heavily damages two city buildings
The blaze starts in a restaurant and spreads to nearby apartments, displacing the tenants.
A three-alarm fire Sunday in Portland damaged two businesses, forced several people to find another place to live and led authorities to close Congress Street for several hours.
The fire started around 3:30 p.m. inside a bar and restaurant in Bramhall Square.
Fire officials shut down Congress Street, at its intersection with Bramhall Street, to give ladder trucks enough room to maneuver. The street did not reopen until 8 p.m.
Witnesses said the fire spread from Binga's Wingas restaurant, a one-story building at 795 Congress St., to an adjacent apartment building and market at 785 Congress St.
Jessica Madore was standing on a sidewalk across from Binga's watching in agony as firefighters used an ax to chop through the roof over her third-floor apartment.
"I have two computers in there with my entire life's history on them," she said.
Madore, who works as a sales associate for Angela Adams, a Portland designer, said she had left her apartment for about an hour. When she returned, the building was on fire.
Madore said there are five apartments in the four-story structure, which had recently been renovated. She said the blaze was a painful reminder of a fire from her childhood that destroyed her bedroom when she was 8 years old.
Deputy Fire Chief Robert Wassick said the American Red Cross was notified, but it did not appear that any of the building's tenants would need assistance. "The owner told us he could put everyone up (in another apartment building)," Wassick said.
Wassick was unable to provide the names of the restaurant or apartment building owners. Binga's Wingas opened in Portland four years ago.
Adan Sharif owns the Al-Mustaqi Halal Market and butcher shop, which is located on the first floor of the apartment building. He and his family were huddled in the cold, waiting to hear if they could go back inside to recover whatever food items might have escaped the fire.
Sharif and his family had to flee after heat from the restaurant caused fire to break out in their building. Sharif said his family lives at another location and would not be without a place to stay. However, he said he probably lost meat and other food supplies in the blaze.
Sharif opened his market in July 2007 after coming to Portland from Somalia.
Firefighters also had to battle cold weather that caused water puddles from fire hoses to ice over. Wassick said one firefighter slipped and fell on the ice. He was not seriously hurt.
Wassick said the cause of the fire remains under investigation. Both buildings sustained extensive damage and will not be habitable for some time.
Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: