Body found after Fourth Plain strip mall fire

Three-alarm blaze being investigated as possible homicide

By Craig Brown, Columbian Managing Editor and Tom Vogt, Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter

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More information may be released this afternoon on a three-alarm fire in an east Vancouver strip mall that left one person dead.

The body was found in the ruins of the Oasis Market Sunday evening, after heavy equipment made it safe for investigators to enter.

According to the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, major crimes detectives have launched a homicide investigation. The identity of the victim, the cause of death, and circumstances leading to the fire have still not been disclosed. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Sheriff’s Office Major Crimes Team.

The three-alarm fire was reported at 5:41 a.m. at Sifton Plaza, a four-unit retail complex at 13412 N.E. Fourth Plain Blvd.

The complex, on the north side of Fourth Plain Boulevard, was anchored by a Texaco gas station and the Oasis Market convenience store, and had three other small tenants — a barber shop, a pet supply store and a pet grooming business.

On Sunday afternoon, Clark County Deputy Fire Marshal Susan Anderson said that investigators were waiting to get inside the convenience store. Heavy equipment was needed to remove pieces of the building’s framework that might collapse on people entering the damaged site.

Investigators also were hoping to review surveillance footage, Anderson said.

Jason Hassler, whose family operates the pet grooming business, said that they lost animals of their own — two cats and seven birds — but no clients’ animals were there.

Their business has gotten some unexpected assistance, he said.

“Since this was posted on Facebook, other groomers have offered us room in their shops,” Hassler said.

Vancouver firefighters from nearby Station 4 arrived Sunday morning to find the complex already fully involved, with flames showing through the roof. They called for a second alarm and began dousing the fire from the exterior of the building.

A third alarm was called at 6:11 a.m., bringing a total of 36 firefighters and numerous pieces of apparatus to the scene.

Firefighters closed Fourth Plain, a major arterial, as they worked. Water sprayed on the fire was freezing on the ground, making ice a significant problem. Sanding crews were brought in to treat the street, which is open today.

The building, which had an assessed value of $503,000, is a total loss.