Vacant Lents house mysteriously catches fire

UPDATED: See why this outer East Portland house, called a ‘Zombie Home’ by Mayor Hales last year, shouldn’t have been set ablaze …

In June of last year, this house was visited by Mayor Charlie Hales and City officials as part of a “Zombie Home” tour in the Lents neighborhood. East Portland News file image

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

To bring attention to the City of Portland still being the grip of an affordable housing shortage, then-Mayor Charlie Hales led a “Zombie Home” walking tour, visiting five vacant properties in disrepair in the Lents neighborhood on June 10, 2016.

The last stop was at 5908 SE 86th Avenue. In a front window was posted a sign that read:

This property is maintained by:
fivebrothers™ Default Management Solutions
To report any problems
Call (586) 772-7611
No Trespassing

Firefighter wrangle ladders at the burning house in Lents.

That sign was still there on the window when Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) arrived to fight a structure fire in the house at 10:15 a.m. on February 23.

When the Truck Company from Parkrose Station 2 arrived, first on the scene, they reported to dispatch heavy smoke coming from the second story and eaves of the structure.

Working quickly, under difficult conditions, fire crews quickly extinguish the blaze inside this house.

“At first, it looked the fire was in the attic space or in the second floor,” said PF&R Public Information Officer Lieutenant Rich Chatman.

“When they got inside, they realized that it been a long-smoldering fire that had started on the first floor,” Chatman told East Portland News at the scene.

“What made it dangerous and difficult with for firefighters was that the house was boarded-up from the inside,” Chatman said.

A lieutenant with PF&R Lents Station 11 heads inside the house.

“It’s dangerous for crews to work in a no-visibility environment – and, if they need to get out of the house quickly,” added Chatman. “Getting those boards and panels off the inside can be difficult, if you don’t have the right tools with you,” explained Chatman.

They found no one in the shuttered and now fire-damaged residence, Chatman said. “Investigators are on-scene determining how the fire may have started.”

With a charred interior, broken windows, and a vertical ventilation hole cut in the roof, this “Zombie Home” looks as if it may remain unoccupied for some time to come.

Asked if it were possible that someone had been living in the structure without permission, Chatman replied, “The official cause of the fire has been listed as ‘undetermined’. It is suspected that the fire was caused by transients in the house, but it is not known of this fire was due to cooking, heating, smoking or intentional, so the cause will remain undetermined.”

© 2017 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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