Air quality worsens in Portland and Vancouver due to multiple fires

By OPB staff (OPB)
PORTLAND, Ore. July 19, 2023 2:23 p.m. Updated: July 19, 2023 10:38 p.m.
A fire at an abandoned Kmart in Northeast Portland, Ore., sends up a large plume of smoke Wednesday, July 19, 2023.

A fire at an abandoned Kmart in Northeast Portland, Ore., sends up a large plume of smoke Wednesday, July 19, 2023.

Courtesy of Portland Fire & Rescue

A massive fire at a former Kmart released a plume of black smoke above Northeast Portland much of Wednesday.

THANKS TO OUR SPONSOR:

The four-alarm fire started around 6:30 a.m. near the intersection of Northeast 122nd Avenue and Sandy Boulevard, according to Portland Fire & Rescue. In a statement, the agency said a fire chief was able to respond quickly, because the building is located across the street from Portland Fire & Rescue’s training yard.

THANKS TO OUR SPONSOR:

But firefighters initially struggled to get into the 120,000-square-foot building, which had been “vacant for an extended period,” according to the agency. The property owners had reinforced the area around the building with an 8-foot-high chain link fence and concrete barriers. There were also few hydrants available to firefighters.

Portland Fire & Rescue used an automated phone alert system to contact 50,000 phone numbers in the area, asking residents to shelter in place and close their windows to keep toxic smoke out of their homes. The shelter-in-place recommendation was lifted once the smoke column dissipated later in the day.

No one was injured by the fire, and the agency is investigating its cause.

Although the Kmart building fire released a towering column of smoke, it had only minor impact on the area’s air quality. Portland’s air quality went from unhealthy to moderate over the course of Wednesday, mostly due to smoke from an industrial fire in Longview, Washington.

The Longview fire is burning in timber on Weyerhaeuser property, releasing heavy smoke since Tuesday evening.

But even with a fire burning close by, Longview had healthier air than the Portland metro area, because winds pushed that smoke into Oregon.

THANKS TO OUR SPONSOR:
THANKS TO OUR SPONSOR:

Related Stories