Squatters caused house fire, neighbors suspect

The cute little house faces the Springwater Trail – but it’s now a charred mess. See why the folks who called to report this blaze say that vacant houses in the area are becoming a real danger to their neighborhood …

The heavy-duty suspension of these fire rigs get a real workout as they make their way up the this muddy, rutted section of SE Malden Court.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Neighbors call the house fire at 8637 SE Malden Court the evening of March 24 a symptom of the problems brought to their area by the Springwater Trail.

“If you don’t have it closed up or locked down, it will be vandalized, stolen, or slept in,” says Margery Davis as she watches Portland Fire & Rescue firefighters from Station 11, 29, and 25 scramble in, over, and around the neatly blue-painted clapboard-clad home.

After making sure no one is in the burning house, firefighters formulate a plan of attack. The firefighter on the far right from Engine 29 is using a thermal imager to pinpoint the “seat” of the fire.

PF&R spokesman Lt. Damon Simmons says the first crew rolled up about four minutes after the fire was reported, arriving on scene at 8:29 p.m., and finding “heavy fire showing” as they assessed the situation.

Even though it was reported as a vacant structure, firefighters looked to be taking their job seriously. One squad of firefighters made sweeps of the house to make sure no one is inside. Other crew members got ready to pump water from their engine’s tanks – hydrants were too far away to quickly set hose lines.

When firefighters cut open the roof, smoke bellows out.

“This house is vacant – and I think squatters have broken in there several times already,” Davis told us. “They stripped off the front porch light, and heaven knows the damage they’ve done inside. Many of us, who have lived here for years, wonder when someone will come off the Trail, break into one of our places, and light it on fire.”

It didn’t take long for the crews of four engines, one truck and a battalion chief to knock down the blaze. “Investigators were on scene and have established that the fire caused $40,000 in damages,” Simmons says. “The cause of the fire still has yet to be released.”

We may never get the official reason behind this fire – but neighbors suspect they already know how it started.

But Davis and her neighbors didn’t need an investigator’s report. “I’m pretty sure it was squatters,” she frowned.

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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