Mystery surrounds fatal backyard car fire in Lents

See why there are many questions – and so far, no answers – about an unusual fire that also brought the police Major Crash Unit team to this flag-lot off SE 111th Avenue …

Firefighters from Portland Fire & Rescue’s Truck 7 remain on-scene, as investigators hike back to examine the burnt hulk of a car tucked in the corner of a flag-lot.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The call that came in to the 9-1-1 Center at 4:28 p.m. on January 28 wasn’t all that odd. Neighbors reported seeing unusual smoke in the area. But what fire and police officials found when they responded was troubling: a partially charred body in a car.

Although Portland Fire & Rescue’s (PF&R) firefighters could clearly see the smoke of a brush fire, finding the location wasn’t easy – it was on one of outer East Portland’s “flag lots” located behind forward-sited homes.

Firefighters first approached the fire off the 10900 block of SE Schiller Street – and later shifted a block east and south, entering a long driveway that took them back to 4915 SE 111th Ave.

“When we arrived on-scene, there was a fire behind the house, behind the shed, on the flag lot,” PF&R spokesperson Kim Kosmas told us at the scene. “But instead of finding a grass fire, firefighters saw a car burning. The burning car caused some of the brambles around it to catch on fire. That fire was quickly extinguished.”

Even though it was said simply to be a fire investigation, yellow police tape at the scene prevented entry to the flag-lot.

Kosmas said while it looked as if the vehicle lit up the underbrush, investigators said how or why the car ignited in flames had not been determined. “Firefighters did find a deceased person, a male victim, in the driver’s seat of the vehicle. Right now, little is known about the situation; three investigators are on-scene.”

We pointed out that the scene was surrounded with yellow police tape – not fire bureau tape. “Police are keeping people out of the area; they are on-scene,” Kosmas conceded.

Soon, the Police Bureau’s Major Crash Team van and investigators arrived; their crew walked back to the burn site, well out of view from SE 111th Avenue. About their involvement, Portland Police Bureau spokesperson Detective Mary Wheat simply told us that PF&R investigators were handling the investigation.

Firefighters and police remained on scene well into the evening hours – but the results of their findings has yet to be revealed.

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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