Historic, century-old Roseway Theater destroyed by fire

INCLUDES MOP-UP VIDEO | Here’s what’s known about a fire that devastated this classic theater in the Roseway neighborhood of outer East Portland …

Smoke fills the air, as firefighters work to save this historic Roseway Theater from a raging fire. PF&R image

By David F. Ashton

After surviving changes in motion picture distribution and the shifting demographics of movie goers – and the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic – the historic independent Roseway Theater, built in 1925, was destroyed by fire early Saturday morning, August 6.

Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) crews who were dispatched at 5:48 a.m. to 7229 NE Sandy Boulevard reported back to dispatchers seeing thick smoke rising from the 7,000 sq. ft. movie theater.

As the sun rises, dozens of firefighters operate remote-controlled nozzles mounted atop ladder trucks to spray water into the roof of the burning theater. PF&R image

Here’s the timeline of this firefight:

5:59 a.m. – a PF&R Battalion Chief called for a “Second Alarm”, bringing in additional firefighters and apparatus.

6:10 a.m. – Firefighters are still working to access the fire. Fire crews forced entry into the building and began searching for the fire, however the floor began to collapse under them, and flames began burning through the roof. This forced the command for crews to get back outside and to fight the fire from the exterior.

As the blaze continues to consume the interior of the theater, firefighters climb down to safety from the roof of a closely-adjoining building. PF&R image

6:17 a.m. – Firefighters confirm fire showing through the roof.

6:22 a.m. – Commanders have now called for a “Third Alarm” to bring more firefighters

From high above, water pours into the collapsed roof of the theater, and also onto surrounding buildings. PF&R image

6:39 a.m. – Firefighters are now fighting this fire with large, high-pressure streams of water — sprayed from nozzles mounted on several raised ladders on Ladder Trucks. Crews also drench nearby buildings, to keep the fire from spreading to adjoining businesses

Looking down from the top of an extended aerial ladder after most of the fire has been extinguished, the burned-out theater’s interior is evident. PF&R image

7:36 a.m. – Portland Bureau of Transportation crews are been called to mitigate the significant water runoff in Sandy Boulevard.

9:45 a.m. – Firefighters have knocked down most of the fire, but falling wood and debris are trapping embers and hot spots inside the building.

At 9:06 a.m., when we took this photo, firefighters are still spraying hundreds of gallons of water per minute into the now-burned-out theater building. East Portland News photo

“That means this fire will be burning for a long time,” PF&R Public Information Officer Lt. Damon Simmons told reporters. “It will roll and burn for a long time.”

As many as 85 firefighters responded during the incident, Lt. Simmons said, adding. “We don’t believe anyone was inside; and there were no reported injuries.”

Here’s video of crews as this incident winds down:

Investigators began searching for the fire’s cause and point of origin later the same day, but at of the posting of this story, no conclusions had been publicly announced.

PF&R considers the building to be a total loss – unless its owners decide to fully rebuild the theater on the site.

© 2022 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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