Arson suspected in fire at Cherry Park Elementary School

It’s not official, but Hazelwood neighbors say they believe someone has been setting fires around this outer East Portland school …

Behind Cherry Park Elementary School, in the Hazelwood neighborhood, firefighters catch their breath after putting out the fire that melted a portable toilet and scorched the overhanging roof.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

“Someone has been setting fires behind the school; I’m afraid that one of them might set the building on fire,” a neighbor told East Portland News, watching firefighters working behind Cherry Park Elementary School on Sunday evening, July 23. “There was another fire, earlier today, on the playground.””

Indeed, Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) crews were dispatched to the school, near SE 104th Avenue and Stevens Street, at 8:08 p.m.

Firefighters pause and plan how to access the embers that remain in the roof.

In front of the school, and pulled in behind the building, were 15 PF&R units, including engines, ladder trucks, Battalion Chief rigs, and a Fire Investigator’s van.

“According to the incident report, neighbors reported that a ‘porta-potty’ was on fire, and the fire was extending to the school building,” PF&R Public Information Officer Lt. Laurent Picard reported.

Upon their arrival, the crew of PF&R Mill Park Station No. 7 Engine Company reported to dispatchers that an exterior awning or breezeway cover, attached to the brick building, was also burning.

School staff talk with firefighters at a side door of the school, after they’d found that no fire had gotten inside the building.

While the Engine Company crew was putting out the blaze – including that portable toilet, which had melted into a gooey puddle – firefighters of Ladder Truck 7 made entry into the school building.

“There was no fire extension into the building, only light smoke, according to a crew member of Engine Company 19,” Picard said.

Making sure embers have been extinguished, one firefighter inserts his “Pike Pole” tool into the joint between the brick building and the roof, while the other crew member blasts a stream of surfactant Class A Foam into the crevice.

“Earlier in the day, there’d been a bark dust fire in the school’s playground,” confirmed Picard.

PF&R Investigator Nicole Brewer arrived to look into the fires. “The cause is currently listed as ‘undetermined’; but there were no injuries reported,” Picard concluded.

If you have information about these fires, call the PF&R’s Arson Tip Line at (503) 823-4636 and tell them this is regarding Fire Incident No. 23-79726.

© 2023 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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