Neighbors nervous about another fire in Creston-Kenilworth

UPDATED: Discover the cause of this fire! Is the firebug who torched The Dougy Center at it again? Find out what officials say, and learn about the latest fire that destroyed a local retail business …

Flames shoot from the roof of this Southeast Portland business as firefighters work find the source of the fire. Dick Harris/Portland Fire & Rescue photo

Story and some photos by David F. Ashton
With one blaze after another during the past year, residents and business people near the northeast corner of the Creston-Kenilworth Neighborhood are wondering if the “Southeast Firebug” has struck again – as a business, Renovation Style Gallery, was burned out by an early morning fire on November 18.

“At 4:28 a.m., Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) crews responded to the report of smoke coming from a building at 5134 SE Foster Road,” reported the fire bureau’s spokesman, Lt. Allen Oswalt. “The fire was reported by a passerby.

Because the fire had spread throughout the building, firefighters pulled sheetrock away from the walls and ceiling to make sure it was fully extinguished. Dick Harris/Portland Fire & Rescue photo

“The crews of PF&R Engine and Truck 25, their station a few blocks south of the burning store on 52nd Avenue, arrived within two minutes, and reported smoke billowing from the back side of the building,” Oswalt said. “Minutes later, the crews of Engine 20 and 23 rolled on-scene.”

Firefighters first searched the building and confirmed no one was inside the burning structure.

“Truck 25’s crew started opening the roof, and fire blew out,” Oswalt told us. “We pulled out our firefighters until we could make sure of the structural integrity of the building. Then, firefighters went back in and finished knocking down the fire.”

Hours later, this relatively new retail store lies in ruin.

The fire had extended throughout the building, partially contained within the sheetrock on the walls, Oswalt reported. “The fire had worked its way into the concealed spaces in the walls and between the ceiling and roof, making it difficult for firefighters to put it out.”

After about 40 minutes of cutting holes in the roof and pulling sheetrock walls off the inside of the building, the 35 firefighters on-scene were able to finally extinguish the hot spots.

Although a frame construction four-plex was just feet away to the west, it wasn’t in danger, Oswalt confirmed. No injuries were reported.

Asked if investigators thought there could any connection between this fire and other fires – at a professional building and The Dougy Center, both only a few blocks south on 52nd – Oswalt responded, “Fire Investigators from Portland Fire were on-scene and there is no word yet as to what started the fire. This incident is still under investigation. If readers saw any thing about this, or any other fire in the area, investigators would like to know.”

UPDATE: “Fire investigators determined that the fire started in the wall of the store; they believe it was called by an electrical malfunction. Arson was ruled out,” said bureau spokesman Lt. Allen Oswalt.

The damage estimates for this fire have not yet been established.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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