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Firefighters credited with saving lives after natural gas explosion in Portland

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PORTLAND, Ore. — A Battalion Chief with the Portland Fire Department, who was across the street during Wednesday’s natural gas explosion, is giving his perspective on the explosion.

Fox 12 spoke with Scott Beyers as he was leaving Legacy Emanuel Hospital where he was checking in on one of his own.

Lieutenant Peter St. John is credited with saving a lot of lives on Wednesday. He’s out of surgery and doing well, recovering from a broken leg.

Beyers told Fox 12 St. John helped with evacuations and put his life on the line to save others, and he wasn’t alone.

When the building exploded in northwest Portland, firefighters were already there checking on a natural gas leak. They had no way of knowing it was about to ignite.

“It all seemed like slow motion,” said Beyers.

Beyers was across the street from the blast, checking on a building at Northwest 23rd and Glisan.

“Just as I checked the handle on that building, the explosion occurred,” Beyers told Fox 12. It just pushed me right through the doorway, through the glass and frame and everything. The door was blown off into the front of the store there. Hearing the mayday calls on the radio from the firefighters, I came out and saw the firefighters who were down.”

Luckily, they were already getting help from the other firefighters there and that’s when Beyers saw a woman on the roof of the burned out building.

Knowing there wasn’t time to get a ladder, Beyers and a lieutenant moved in.

“We just climbed up the debris pile toward her. The fire was coming up right behind her and it was starting to get hard to see her through the smoke.”

That rescue was caught on camera by Robert Ball.

“I saw a woman sliding on her rear end and the firefighters for back up on the ruble pile and pulled her off and everything was on fire around them,” said Ball.

Like all first responders, you won’t find firefighters calling themselves heroes. But looking at video and photos after the explosion, it’s clear that’s exactly who they are.

“To see those firefighters go up and pull that woman down off the roof is pretty amazing,” said Ball.

Three firefighters were hurt, as well as two police officers. Thankfully, all had relatively minor injuries.