Former Gateway Elks building burns to ground

See why this, yet another fire in a troubled outer East Portland building, will now likely be the last …

Although fire crews arrived quickly, the entire former Gateway Elks Lodge, just two blocks from the Gateway Fred Meyer store, is once again engulfed in flames. Greg Murh/PF&R image

Story by David F. Ashton

Even though the Gateway Elks Lodge, at 711 NE 100th Avenue in the Hazelwood neighborhood, has been long closed – and the 3.61 acre property has been fenced off for more than eight years – It’s been the scene of problems for the Portland Police Bureau, and especially also for the Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R).

On December 13, 2022, the building caught fire, bringing a large contingent of firefighters to the blaze. CLICK HERE to read our report about that.

“I have been to this location, either as a PF&R PIO (Public Information Officer) or as a firefighter, responding to fire calls, four times in the past six months!” remarked  PF&R PIO Rick Graves to East Portland News on the day of the most recent fire – one that lit up in the wee hours of April 6.

he onboard aerial ladder of Parkrose PF&R Station 2’s “Quint” (quintuple combination pumper) is one of many Ladder Truck Companies hosing water into the burning building. Greg Murh/PF&R

Latest fire destroys building
At about 2:00 a.m. on April 6, the latest and largest fire swept through the massive, multi-floor building – bringing out apparatus from the many fire stations responding the First Alarm and Second Alarm calls. Arriving crews found “heavy fire showing through the roof of much of the building”, according to PF&R officials.

Due to previous fires and other incidents in the building, PF&R has documented many large holes in the floors, on every level. Knowing the building’s structural instability and observing the amount of fire showing, the Incident Commanders opted for a “defensive fire attack strategy” – which means attacking the fire entirely from outside the building.

“There were reports of people running away from here as crews were en route, but the first arriving crew did not see anyone running from the building,” a PF&R official stated. “Firefighters forced open the exterior doors, to ensure that there wasn’t anyone inside, trying to get out.”

Crews establish three aerial “master steams”, dousing the interior of the building through its collapsed roof, and applying “copious amounts of water” onto the fire, as officials put itGreg Murh/PF&R image

As seen from the top of a Ladder Company aerial “bucket”, fire engulfed the entire structure. PF&R image

As exterior wall sections fell, firefighters were alerted to stand clear of the collapse zones. But as each wall collapsed, firefighters took the opportunity to shoot additional streams of water into the building though the new opening.

Then, crew members atop the aerial ladders reported that the entire roof had burned through, and that the master streams were able to put water into the entire interior of what remained of the structure.

12 hours later, only smoldering ruins of the former Elks Lodge building remain. East Portland News image

Two hours into the incident, the huge blaze was pretty much extinguished. Crews stayed on-scene to prevent any large flareups until the fire was determined to be completely out. The PF&R Fire Investigations Unit arrived after daybreak to begin the investigation to establish a cause.

There were no reported injuries.

The south and west grand entrances to the former Gateway Elks Lodge still stand, although the remainder of the building has disintegrated. East Portland News image

When we revisited the site of the smoking rubble later on the day of the fire, within the perimeter of the fenced-in lot, there was parked a newly-installed large construction trailer. Workers were standing nearby the portable office, gazing at the mountain of still-smoldering rubble. Demolition was scheduled to start soon on the building when it burned; now construction will follow.

When built in 1975, the Gateway Elks Lodge was considered one of the finest such facilities in the nation. But, when the local Elks’ fortunes diminished, their lodge closed down. The 12,852 sq. ft. building and its acreage were sold in January, 2015, for the sum of $3,800,000 to its current owner, the David Douglas School District.

The west entrance of the former Gateway Elks Lodge will need to be bulldozed, along with the remainder of the structure, before new construction can begin. East Portland News image

Even if construction on the site doesn’t begin immediately after the ruins of this one time fraternal palace are cleared, at least the derelict structure will no longer be attracting the dope dealers, drug users, squatters, and vandals who reportedly have frequented it in recent years.

© 2023 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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