St. Helens police bodycam shows officers rescuing residents from fire at retirement center

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Newly released bodycam video shows the moments when St. Helens Police officers rescued several residents from a burning retirement home.

The fire broke out around 12:30 a.m. Wednesday morning at the Columbia Hills Retirement Center on Pittsburg Road.

The video shows several explosions preventing officers from reaching residents from the inside. They rescued at least three residents from the outside, hoisting them out through their windows and lowering them to safety.

When Columbia River Fire & Rescue arrived, firefighters saved other residents whose rooms were engulfed in flames.

Sadly, one of the six people saved by first responders later died. Linda Stagg-Newman, 74, passed away Wednesday morning, according to her son, Adam King.

“She loved to sing and dance,” said King. “She loved to have fun.”

Five residents were hospitalized and a police officer and firefighter were also treated for minor injuries.

"Most of the evacuations could walk, but very slowly," said Mike Gorsuch, battalion chief of Columbia River Fire & Rescue. "There were quite a few that we had to go get wheelchairs and wheel them over and there were quite a few that we had to carry... so we could get them to area ambulances."

Evacuated residents were transported to a hotel and 23 of them received assistance from the Red Cross. Thirty-five firefighters responded to the fire from agencies including from Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue, Portland Fire and every fire department in Columbia County.

Columbia River Fire and Rescue and state fire officials are still investigating the cause of the fire.

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