PORTLAND, Ore. — An elderly man is recovering in the hospital after two firefighters saved him from an apartment fire on Monday in Southeast Portland.

The aftermath of that fire is still fresh at the Hidden Court Apartments on Southeast 121st Avenue and Division Street. It’s also fresh in the minds of two men who lived through it but lost everything. The loss and the life-threatening experience of the fire increases the stress to what life has already handed Richard Haley, and his son Robert.

Portland firefighters Andy French and Bryan Wells pulled Richard Haley, 78, out of his ground-floor apartment. Haley is bedridden, on a feeding tube, and has survived five strokes. He talked to media Wednesday afternoon from his hospital bed.

“I couldn’t even see them until they were right by the bed. And they fell on top of me,” he said.

Haley is recovering from smoke inhalation and doctors are treating him for his other health conditions. He’s also carrying the heavy burden of knowing he almost died in the fire.

“Very lucky to be alive,” he said through tears.

The fire started next door to an apartment Haley shares with his grandson Phillip and his son Robert.

“I no sooner got done hooking my dad’s feeding tube up to him, because he’s on a feeding tube, and I sit down to watch TV and the neighbor came over, knocking on the door asking for help,” Robert Haley explained.

Robert knew a fire had started in his neighbor’s home. Fire investigators said a cigarette that wasn’t disposed of properly started the fire.

“I went over and seen he had a little fire on the sofa and the carpet by the coffee table, so I ran down there and grabbed the fire extinguisher, and put the fire out on the floor. … By the time I ran down and pulled the fire alarm, the flames were covering the front door and I couldn’t get back in to get dad.”

That’s when firefighters French and Wells showed up and pulled Richard to safety.

“Two of the firemen didn’t even wait to get their oxygen on; they went running in there,” Robert Haley said.

The Haleys have lost everything — including Richard’s motorized wheelchair — to smoke and water damage. The fire destroyed or severely damaged four other apartment units.

“We’re just wearing what we got and came out with. Dad didn’t have nothing. He wore his diaper. His leg brace is in there,” Robert Haley said.

The family is grateful to Wells and French for saving Richard.

“Thank you. I want to say thank you for saving my life,” Richard Haley said.
Robert is looking for a place for him and his nephew to live. It has to be a place that can accommodate Richard once he’s able to go home. Richard will spend a few more days in the hospital, and then go to a long-term care facility to continue recovering.

They also need everything from clothes to a new wheelchair for Richard.

Robert said the property manager at the Hidden Court Apartments told him he won’t be allowed to go into his apartment to try and save any of their belongings for two months.

A gofundme.com account is set up for them to help them get re-established.

“I told dad, I’ll take care of it, don’t worry,” Robert Haley said.

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