Blaze chars ‘troubled’ Lents home

Find out why neighbors say they’re surprised that people are still living in this outer East Portland house …

After quickly knocking down this fire in the Lents neighborhood, firefighters begin gathering up their gear.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

A fire burned a residence in the Lents neighborhood this week, but not to the ground – causing some dismay among neighbors.

Here’s why: Since 2013, the Portland Bureau of Development Service (BDS) has received complaints about a house at 10104 SE Harold Street.

These complains began as garbage piled up in the yard, and then ranged from “garbage bags on roof of porch”, to in 2016, BDS IVR Case Number 3939287 for “Compliance Zoning” that reads:

“Cooking on a propane stove on top of the stove w/8 propane bottles on kitchen counters & stove. Rats in upstairs bedroom. No electricity, Running generator for power. Checked water records, which show water cut off …”

Similar complaints were received by BDS a recently as recently as this September.

In the light of day, damage to the front of this house is clear.

Minutes before sunrise, at 7:41 a.m. on December 23, Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) crews were dispatched to the residence.

“Initial reports from multiple callers to the 9-1-1 Center were that fire was coming from the roof of a home,” said PF&R Public Information Officer Lieutenant Tommy Schroeder. “First-arriving crews encountered heavy fire coming from the front of the structure, and the dispatcher relayed reports of possible occupants inside the home.”

Fire crews vigorously attacked the blaze from the interior, and were able to quench the fire, which was mainly in the living room.

While the living room sustained the greatest amount of damage, the fire spread through the rest of the house before it was extinguished.

“None of the five occupants was injured in this fire, but two dogs perished, however,” Schroeder said.

Looking at the burned-out structure, neighbors shook their heads. “I’m glad to hear that no one was killed in there, and sad to hear their dogs died – but this house has been a ‘disaster waiting to happen’ for several years,” commented Jose Sanchez.

“There are abandoned cars on the streets here, there’s trash in the yard, and next-door neighbors say there are a huge amount of rats in and around the house and yard,” Sanchez reported.

Neighbors point out the new orange electrical extension cord snaking out of this window as a sign that the residence is still occupied, even after the fire.

“But, even so, it looks like they’re living in there, again – see the electrical extension cord going in the window?” pointed out Sanchez. “I think it might be better if no one could live there.”

“Portland Fire Investigators helped determine the cause of this fire; it started when an occupant attempted to light a propane heater inside the home,” Schroeder later revealed. “The home had no electric service,” he confirmed.

© 2017 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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