"About 35 firefighters rushed to the Concord Arms apartments at 1712 E. Fourth Plain Blvd. on Tuesday night and arrived to find a ground-floor apartment engulfed in flames that were burning into a second-floor apartment.
No one was reported injured in the fire, which sent up thick, brown smoke that could be seen from a mile away as winds blew its acrid smell to the east toward nearby Fort Vancouver Way.
More than a hundred people including small children, who live nearby watched as firefighters from the Vancouver Fire Department, Fire District 6 and Portland battled the blaze.
Firefighters also climbed onto the roof with ladders and used power saws to cut a hole to expose the building's attic, where flames also were burning.
Called at 8:08 p.m. to the fire on the north side of Fourth Plain, commanders immediately called for a second alarm, bringing more firefighters and engines.
One truck parked on Fourth Plain extended its ladder toward the fire. Vancouver police blocked traffic from the boulevard.
Crews went inside the apartments and found no one inside, said Vancouver Firefighter-spokesman Jim Flaherty.
There also was concern that flames might spread to nearby two-story apartment buildings; one, to the east, was only about 50 to 60 feet from the burning building, with a large tree in between.
But the firefighters, some who used up two or three air bottles, contained the fire to one building, which had 13 units. At least four units were damaged.
"That was just good work by those firefighters, to hold it where they did," Flaherty said. "There was a lot of fire and a lot of work to do."
The fire was under control about 8:50 p.m., Flaherty said. Other fire departments staffed Vancouver and District 6 stations in case of another emergency."