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Fire Near Rocky Butte Billows Black Smoke Over East Portland


UPDATE (Tuesday, Aug. 27 at 12:30 p.m. PT) — Portland firefighters are investigating what caused a fire near Rocky Butte in Northeast Portland Monday. What started as a grass fire near Northeast 85th Avenue and Siskiyou quickly spread to several buildings nearby.

People along busy 82nd Avenue said they heard pops and small explosions, as the fire entered an area including a gym, a flooring store and a Buddhist center.

Rich Chatman, a spokesperson for Portland Fire & Rescue said two businesses and a home were damaged, and that the ongoing air quality in the area would be bad enough that homes within 12 blocks should stay indoors, keep their windows shut and air conditioning off. 

“As terrible as that sounds right now,” Chatman acknowledged, given the hot evening weather.

“But we are concerned about the air quality.”  

The fire was first noticed late Monday afternoon, as black smoke billowed over east Portland.

Pacific Power shut off power through the area to more than 9,600 customers, which was restored around 9 p.m. Monday, according to the company’s Twitter. 

Shortly before 6 p.m., the Grand Avenue Boxing Club posted to Facebook: “Grand Avenue boxing is on fire engulfed in flames please keep us in your prayers pray that no boxers were her or anyone around is hurt.”

A few minutes later, the club account posted a brief live video and a terse update: “It’s gone.”

Olivier Gandzadi was working out in the gym when the fire started. 

One of the gym’s trainers alerted people to the fire and everyone evacuated the building. 

Gandzadi said he and others in the gym got in their cars and drove away from the boxing club but stayed close enough nearby to keep an eye on the fire.  

“We could see the black smoke — really, really thick — and the side building was on fire,” he said.  

“It was like a war with people running and screaming.”

The gym, opened in 1949, is believed to be one of the oldest boxing gyms in Portland, Gandzadi said.  

Gandzadi moved from Paris to Portland 12 years ago and has been going to the boxing club for at least 10 years. The gym has a special community, he said.  

“You find your peace in there. You learn; you work out; you stay in shape, but it’s so much more,” Gandzadi said.  

The gym’s damage is being assessed, but regardless, Gandzadi said it will definitely need financial help if it’s to be renovated.  

“We don’t want to let that gym go,” he said. “It’s like a family.” 

Portland Fire & Rescue’s Chatman declined to give specifics on damage to individual businesses and didn’t point to a cause. 

The Portland Fire Bureau said on Twitter it was evacuating homes on NE Knott Street. Other unofficial reports indicated houses on other nearby streets, including NE Brazee, were evacuated. 

The fire was burning in an open area near the Dharma Rain Zen Center and the Lumberyard Indoor Bike Park. 

Portland Fire & Rescue announced via its Twitter Tuesday at around 9 a.m. that residents who were evacuated near the fire were allowed to return to their homes. 

Amelia Templeton, Molly Solomon, David Stuckey and Donald Orr contributed to this story.