Why do neighbors say they’re happy that this small house, just west of the Springwater Trail, was gutted by fire? Learn why, from our exclusive interviews‚
The fire burned so intensely, the interior of this bungalow was charred to the exterior walls.
Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Typically, people tell us they feel sad when they see a nearby home go up in flames, displacing the residents.
But neighbors of the home at 8740 SE Flavel Street say they’re overjoyed that the explosive blaze that started about 12:30 a.m. on July 26 burned so hot that it destroyed the front of the bungalow, and reduced the interior to cinders and ashes.
Neighbors say ‘good riddance’ to drug flophouse
Because those living near the burned home characterized the occupants as “violent participants in the hard-drug culture”, they ask their names not be used.
“Please don’t even say where our house is,” a lady begs us. “I’m still afraid of these people.”
Four different neighbors with whom we speak, during separate interviews, each tell us the house has been the center of drug activity for years.
“But ever since they [the current group] squatted on the property two months ago, it’s been really bad,” the most fearful neighbor relates. “They assaulted my pregnant daughter, kicked her in the stomach, and myself, and other people. They bashed my head on the concrete‚ all because we returned their dog. These are mean, vicious people.”
Neighbors‚ and official City of Portland housing inspection — say several people lived in the trailers parked behind the burned house we photographed from the Springwater Trail.
Lots of people, drugs
The official report says that two individuals safely escaped from the house.
When we check this fact, a man responds, “Two people? Heck, there were ten or twelve people living in there, all the time‚ and more, in the travel trailer behind the home.”
Another witness says she saw “at least a dozen people scattering from the burning house like rats from a sinking ship”.
Neighbors say the occupants are squatters, ranging in age from mid 20s to the 40s.
“What kind of drugs?” a man says, repeating our question. “All kinds of drugs. I don’t think they were picky.”
The fearful neighbor says, “A lady got assaulted the day after we did. She came to my house. She was so high, she was ridiculous. She had a meth pipe in her pocket. She said she was there doing drugs all day; they sell drugs.”
Yet another neighbor notes, “This house is ‘conveniently located’ just west of the Springwater Trail. It was like a drive-up drug stop for druggies on bicycles.”
Police and city investigate complaints
City of Portland records show an “Occupied Building Nuisance and Complaint” was filed on July 9 for “Trash & Debris, Junk, Garbage”. The house was scheduled to re-inspect the residence on July 25, the day before the house caught fire.
On July 10, a “General Housing Complaint” was filed with the City of Portland. According to official records, the file reads:
“OCCUPIED TRAILERS IN THE BACKYARD, PITBULL IS SEEN ON PROPERTY. VISIBLE FROM STREET, 15 PEOPLE IN THE HOUSE AND ABOUT 2 PEOPLE IN EACH TRAILER.”
Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Neighborhood Response Team Officer William Hoover confirmed that the now-destroyed house was the subject of police interest‚ over a period of time‚ for a number of reasons.
One neighbor says he walked through the charred ruins of this house. “It’s all gone now. They’ll have to tear it down,” reports.
Says children were taken from home
A man who says he lives “not far away” tells us DHS contacted him and asked him to take temporary custody of two children living in the house a few days before the fire. “Police have been here many times,” he adds.
“The police used to try hard to clean it up,” a witness volunteers, “but not so much lately. I think they changed the cops working in our area. We’re not sad to see them go. Hopefully, they’ll be out of the neighborhood now.”
¬© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service