Hot temperatures and a warm wind fueled a massive fire in Northeast Portland on Monday evening, marked by plumes of black smoke clearly visible in Clark County and throughout the metro area.
The four-alarm fire just west of Rocky Butte started as a grass fire but spread quickly. By the time it was brought under control several hours later, it had damaged several structures, including at least two businesses and five homes, and destroyed approximately 50 automobiles, according to Portland Fire & Rescue.
The fire was reported at 5:19 p.m. at 8500 N.E. Siskiyou St., according to Portland dispatch records, but quickly moved south through an old golf driving range that is now known as DRZC Siskiyou Pathway and Organic Garden, a Buddhist center. The area is just east of Northeast 82nd Avenue, a major Portland thoroughfare, and due east of Madison High School.
The fire then spread into a neighborhood near Northeast 84th Avenue and Northeast Knott Street, where it nearly destroyed one home and damaged at least four others, said Portland Fire & Rescue spokesman Lt. Rich Chatman. Aerial video of the scene aired by multiple Portland TV stations showed the fire destroyed an old building that was home to a business called the Grand Avenue Boxing Club; automobiles parked in a lot behind the business were also destroyed. The autos belonged to Cascade Auto, a used car dealer, which used the lot for overflow inventory.
Next to the boxing club, the fire at least scorched the Lumberyard BMX bike park at 2700 N.E. 82nd Ave., although that building appeared to be mostly intact.
VFD lends support
Dozens of firefighters with Portland Fire & Rescue, the Port of Portland Fire Department and the Gresham, Ore., Fire Department vigorously attacked the fire, using aerial ladders to deluge the area with water. The Portland Water Bureau said it diverted extra water from Kelly Butte Reservoir and sent engineers to make sure firefighters received enough water.
The Vancouver Fire Department sent an engine from Station 8, 213 N.E. 120th Ave., to Portland to cover any additional calls for service.
Pacific Power said it temporarily shut off electricity to more than 12,000 Northeast Portland customers so firefighters could work safely. Portland police evacuated some neighbors as the flames began to spread. Others within a half-mile radius were allowed to remain in their homes, but were asked to shelter in place.
In addition to the main body of fire, firefighters worked to extinguish smaller spot fires ignited by debris carried by the winds, which were gusting to approximately 20 mph, measured at the National Weather Service’s station at nearby Portland International Airport. In all, dozens of firetrucks were stationed along more than nine square blocks of the city, according to a tactical map released by the Gresham Fire Department on Twitter.
The temperature was approximately 86 degrees as firefighters worked; Oregon and Southwest Washington were already facing a heat advisory. The whole region was under a red flag warning through 11 p.m. Tuesday due to critical fire danger.
The cause of the fire was not immediately determined, according to Chatman. Anyone with information is asked to call 503-823-4636.