A long-abandoned building in Portland’s central eastside burned to the ground on Friday.
Portland Fire and Rescue investigator Rob Garrison said it served as an unsanctioned shelter for people who are houseless.
In his 12 years of service, Garrison recalls about a half dozen fires there. Some were just small, set by people to warm up. Others were larger, like one in July in which a discarded cigarette landed between two walls, smoldered, then took hold.
“I don’t know that we have determined any of these were intentionally set and we definitely don’t know the cause of this one yet,” Garrison said.
Firefighters searched some of the building early Friday morning, but had to withdraw.
“One of our crews did go into the basement with a search rope and was able to do a small search, until the fire got too big and they had to withdraw from the building,” Garrison said.
As of Friday afternoon, no injuries had been reported.
About three-quarters of the structure collapsed in the fire. The rest is also expected to be a complete loss.
Crews focused their attention on two adjoining buildings and were able to save both.
“This is one of the most hazardous buildings firefighters can face,” said Portland Fire Chief Sara Boone. “It is so perilous that we indicate these buildings with a U marker indicating that it is an unsafe building. From the first company to arrive, and as the incident expanded, every crew on scene as well as the incident command staff made outstanding tactical and operational decisions.”
Fire investigators are on scene working to determine the cause.
Portland Fire and Rescue is asking for video or any information about how the fire was started, to be sent to: Meredith.firstname.lastname@example.org