Update: City of Umatilla Identifies Victim in Friday’s Deadly Fire

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A firefighter the night of May 10, 2024, douses the residence at 401 Sixth St., Umatilla, where a fire trapped and killed David Miller. The Oregon Fire Marshal is investigating the blaze, as is the Umatilla Police Department. (Photo courtesy of city of Umatilla) City of Umatilla/Contributed Photo

An evening fire Friday, May 10, at a single-story apartment building in Umatilla claimed the life of one occupant.

The city of Umatilla on May 14 identified the victim as David Miller. He was 60.

The fire was reported at 8:22 p.m. at 401 Sixth St., which is next to the Umatilla Police Department. According to a press release from the city of Umatilla, first responders encountered a rapidly escalating fire with the structure heavily engulfed in flames.

Despite the coordinated efforts of the Umatilla Rural Fire Protection District and Umatilla Police Department, the city reported, the fire’s intensity prevented attempts to rescue a person trapped within the building.

Umatilla Rural Fire District Fire Chief Chris Grant reported the victim was in an office next to the unit where the fire originated.

“He came out of the building and went back in for an unknown reason,” Grant said. “So he originally had been alerted to the fire. Unfortunately the fire progressed in a rapidly escalating situation, creating restricted visibility to exit. Civilians did attempt to rescue on the scene, however, they were unable to get into the space. By the time the fire department arrived, the unit where he was became totally involved.”

Grant said he understood the victim may have been an employee of the complex, a caretaker or a maintenance person.

“Someone originally said he might have gone back in to get his phone, and other people thought he might have wanted to retrieve rent payments or something like that,” Grant said.

Grant said the county dispatch received the original 911 call at 8:21 p.m. Grant’s fire crew was moving at 8:22 p.m. and arrived on scene at 8:29 p.m.

Grant said sighting the thick plume of smoke prompted Grant’s fire crew to call for assistance before arrival at 8:25 p.m.

The Boardman Fire Rescue District, Echo Fire Department, Irrigon Fire Department and Umatilla County Fire District No. also responded to the blaze.

Firefighting personnel remained on the scene overnight, working until 10:30 a.m. May 11 to contain the fire and ensure the safety of the surrounding area.

The Oregon State Fire Marshal has taken over the scene and initiated an investigation into the fire’s origin and cause. Given the fatality, the Umatilla Police Department also started an investigation.

Grant said improper disposal of smoking materials in the apartment next to the office may have started the blaze. He emphasized the importance of having a working smoke detector.

The American Red Cross is assisting individuals and families the fire displaced.

The city of Umatilla offered condolences to the family and loved ones affected by this loss. “We recognize the gravity of this situation and extend our support during this challenging time,” stated the press release.

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