Gateway fatal fire claims two victims

Update: Suspect charged with Arson, and Murder.  Residents say this blaze started with an explosion; but, officials revealed very little …

Fire rigs fill NE Glisan Street, after an explosion is heard, and a fire erupts at the outer East Portland apartment complex.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

The call went out dispatching Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) firefighters at 3:18 a.m. the morning of July 23, when a unit at Cape Manor Apartments, located just east of Interstate 205 at 9801 NE Glisan Street, erupted into flames.

“I think it started earlier than that,” said Robert Hendricks, who said he lives in a nearby residence. “I think the fire started closer to 2:45 a.m., because there was a terrific explosion that shook the ground, it was that big,” he told East Portland News as he watched investigators at the scene the following day.

After fire started below it, this second-story apartment was fully engulfed in flames, with fire extending into the attic. Courtesy KOIN News 6

About 3:28 a.m., the PF&R Battalion Chief in charge called for a “Second Alarm” that brought additional firefighters and their rigs into the area to contain the fire.

As fire crews continued the battling the blaze, doing their best to keep it from spreading to other apartment units, at 3:39 a.m., PF&R’s Lt. Tommy Schroeder reported, “Firefighters went in to fight the fire, and to search for trapped occupants. One person was found inside; the victim was carried out by firefighters, but could not be revived.”

The fire is finally extinguished, and crews stand by while Arson Squad investigators go to work. PF&R image

With all crews still working, the fire was declared extinguished at 4:11 a.m., PF&R Fire Investigators started work at the scene, and discovered a second deceased fire victim.

“One firefighter sustained minor injuries, but was treated at the scene and released back to work,” Schroeder.

At first, it was believed that 10 adults and 15 children had been displaced by the fire; but later, the American Red Cross – Cascades Region reduced that tally to three adults and 12 kids left without a home.

The PF&R Mobile Command Center serves as an on-scene office as the investigation continues.

For two days, the PF&R Mobile Command Center was parked on NE Glisan Street, near the entrance to the apartment buildings.

“Investigators are starting from the outside of where they believe the fire started, and we’re going to methodically work our way inside,” PF&R Fire Inspector Ron Rouse explained to reporters.

A firefighter dumps “overhaul” – burned debris – from one of the apartments affected by the fire.

Later, PF&R Public Information Officer Lt. Damon Simmons said, “Fire investigators are working closely with the Portland Police Bureau on this investigation. All fire deaths in Portland are investigated in the same manner as a crime until criminality is ruled out. To protect the integrity of the investigation, we aren’t releasing any additional information at this time.”

The investigation of this fire continues.

“Arson investigators worked closely with Homicide detectives to develop information in this case, leading to the arrest; detectives do not believe this was a random act,” said Portland Police Bureau Public Information officer Sgt. Pete Simpson the afternoon of July 27.

“The suspect was arrested this morning, without incident,” Simpson added.

Facing Arson and Murder charges in connection with this fire is 28-year-old Ryan Thomas Monaco. MCDC booking photo

PPB Homicide Division detectives booked 28-year-old Ryan Thomas Monaco into the Multnomah County Detention Center (MCDC) in connection at 5:02 p.m. on July 27 on charges of Aggravated Murder and Arson in the First Degree.

Monaco is currently being held in MCDC without bail, and may face additional charges.

© 2017 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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