Squatters blamed for house fire near 82nd

Find out why illegal occupants are suspected in connection with the blaze that all but destroyed a vacant house in SE Portland …

Firefighters look at the fire damage at the rear of this house, after the fire is extinguished. PF&R photo

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
A pre-dawn house fire at 8105 SE Francis Street, on May 23rd, awoke sleeping neighbors – as choking, acrid smoke and the unmistakable sound of crackling fire filled the air.

Neighbors said that smoke was belching out rear of the house and flames were leaping into the air, in their calls to 9-1-1 at 4:28 a.m. “They also indicated that no one had lived at the home for months,” said Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) Public Information Officer Paul Corah.
But, when the first firefighters rolled up, the Engine 11 crew from the Lents Station saw cars parked in the driveway, causing them to wonder whether or not the house might actually be occupied – though they went in and found it vacated.

The intense blaze burns through the east side wall of this house.

Had it not been for firefighters spraying the wall of this neighboring house, it might also have gone up in flames.

While this crew attacked the fire inside the structure, by then fully engulfed in flames, Woodstock’s Engine 25 crew started spraying water on the neighboring house to the west – because the heat from the fiercely burning fire was making its vinyl siding sag, then melt, and fire crews were concerned that that house would also catch fire.

As the flames swept quickly through the two-story home, other crews pulled water supply lines across SE 82nd Avenue of Roses, which shut down the major thoroughfare into the start of the morning rush hour.

Fire investigators have not released the cause of the fire, Corah said.

Later in the morning, the charred remains made it was clear that the blaze caused extensive damage to the structure.

The charring visible at the rear of the structure mirrors the damage inside, officials say.

This ladder was likely used, the properly owner thinks, for “squatters” to enter and exit the vacant house.

A man, who identified himself only as the property owner, spoke to East Portland News. “There wasn’t supposed to be anyone living there. I’m pretty sure it was squatters – probably involved with meth.”

Asked about the ladder running into a back window of the house, the owner said, “I think that’s how they were getting in and out.”

After documenting the damage in photos, the owner added, “A neighbor said people pulled a big truck up in the yard, and started to unload scrap metal from the property. I was about to take that in for recycling.”

Although the cause of the fire hasn’t been official stated, the result is clear – one less house available on the market.

© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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