Arson charged, in Powellhurst-Gilbert pot-grow fire

In this story containing exclusive details, find out about a garage fire that led to the discovery of an indoor marijuana farming operation – and ended in an arson arrest …

Police officers confer, while Portland Fire & Rescue crews cut away the metal garage door, and fight fire in this detached garage.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Although some neighbors said they were surprised by the fire that ripped through a large detached garage in the 12500 block of SE Tibbetts Street, on July 9 at about 11:00 p.m. – the fact the firefighters discovered a pot grow inside the charred structure didn’t astonish anyone.

Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) Battalion chief Chris Babcock said there was fire showing when the crew of Truck 7 rolled up at 10:56 p.m. “Firefighters initially believed the fire was electrical in nature.”

Firefighters continue quenching hot spots after the main fire is knocked down.

“Our firefighters did find the structure fully involved in fire,” PF&R spokesman Paul Corah later reported. “Crews quickly knocked down the fire, but five engines and two trucks remained on-scene until they were recalled at 11:45 p.m.”

When we arrived, firefighters had cut open one of the two metal roll-up garage doors – it looked as if a giant can opener had been used to give access to the interior.

Portland Police Bureau officers begin to investigate the fire scene.

Neighbor suspicions that the garage contained an indoor marijuana growing operation were confirmed; clearly visible inside the opened door were what appeared to be singed pot plants, along with lights and ventilation equipment.

Neighbors nodded knowingly as they watched firefighters – and then Portland Police Bureau officers – go in and out of building. “A lot of people came and went from the house; and they didn’t stay very long,” said a neighbor who said he feared repercussions if his identity were revealed. “Word was that this was ‘medical marijuana’. Many of these people who came looked to be in their early 20s. It makes me wonder what kind of medical condition all these young people have – but how could you tell?”

Neighbors say they think the equipment seen here inside the garage is for growing pot; and the plants in pots on the floor are indeed marijuana.

When we asked the Portland Police Bureau about this incident, we were referred to Portland Fire &Rescue, and officers did not issue any statement about whether the pot growing operation was legally sanctioned or was an illicit farm.

In a surprising development, Corah later informed East Portland News that PF&R fire investigators had arrested a woman, charging her with arson.

PPB Investigators arrest this woman, 25-year-old Jessica Lynn Evert, charging her with Arson in the Second Degree. MCDC booking photo

On July 12 at 9:30 a.m., 25-year-old Jessica Lynn Evert was charged with one count of Arson II, a class C Felony. “Evert is associated with someone at the address, but we’re unable to release any other details at this time,” Corah said. News media have alleged that she is an angry ex-girlfriend, and was seeking revenge.

According to MCDC records, Evert was released on her own recognizance later on July 12.

Investigators have not yet revealed the fire’s actual cause, Evert’s connection with the blaze, or damage estimates, Corah added.

We’ll update this article as more information becomes available.

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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