Bedridden woman dies in SE Portland fire

Bedridden woman dies in SE Portland fire
A family photo of Berna Dizer.

PORTLAND, Ore. - A woman who was confined to her bed died when a fire broke out Friday morning at an apartment complex in Southeast Portland.

"Our hearts go out to the family and friends who have lost their loved one," Erin Janssens, Fire Chief for Portland Fire & Rescue, said in a news release. "Despite our efforts to prevent fires and keep our community safe, fire remains a very real threat. This is a tragic loss."

The fire happened around 8:30 a.m. at the Anderson Villa apartments in the 15000 block of Southeast Division Street.

When firefighters arrived there was heavy black smoke and fire showing in a stairwell. The building did have working smoke alarms but the flames spread quickly, trapping three people inside. Two were rescued but a third did not make it.

The victim was 57-year-old Berna Dizer, who was bedridden with Lou Gehrig's disease and on oxygen. She lived with her sister and nephew, both of whom were rescued. Dizer's sister, Rita, ended up with some burns but was expected to be fine.

"I was shaking," said Ayanna Hamilton, a friend. "I seen the apartments and I knew where she stayed and it was scary."

The American Red Cross was on the scene helping residents displaced by the fire. Four apartments were affected, leaving 10 people without a place to live. Damages are estimated at around $190,000.

As far as what sparked the fire, witnesses said they heard an explosion when the blaze started but fire investigators have not yet determined a cause. Family members said the fire started in the livingroom where Dizer kept her oxygen tank.

Fire Safety Tips from Portland Fire & Rescue

  • Make sure you have a working smoke alarm in every sleeping area and on every level. Replace them every 10 years.
  • Know another route - make sure you have a secondary way to get out.
  • Once you are out, do not go back inside.
  • Make sure your family has a central spot to meet outside of the home. That way you will know if anyone is still inside and you can tell firefighters who needs to be rescued.