Lents ‘transient flop house’ found ablaze

See why firefighters were ordered to pull out of this burning outer East Portland residence before the fire was out …

In the Lents neighborhood, fire and rescue units fill SE Harney Street, near the Springwater Trail, as firefighters work to extinguish a house fire.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

“I hate to say it, but I hope that house burns to the ground,” growled neighbor Muriel Sanchez on the morning of August 17, as she watched firefighters struggle to put out a house fire at 8702 SE Harney Street, near where the road dead-ends into the Springwater Trail.

“Although it’s been boarded up, it’s been a ‘druggie flop house’ with people coming and going, mostly on bicycles, at all hours of the day and night,” Sanchez told East Portland News. “We neighbors complained, and finally [City] inspectors came out in June.”

The boarded-up house offers few ways for fire crews to access and put out the fire.

Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) crews were called out at 9:53 a.m. that morning; the Bureau’s Woodstock Station 25’s Truck Company, the first rig on scene, reported back to Dispatch thick black smoke and flames rising from the structure.

“Crews have just arrived on-scene of a fully-involved residential fire; the house is vacant and boarded up,” a PF&R official reported tersely at 10:02 a.m. Within minutes, 10 additional engines and ladder trucks had arrived.

In thick smoke, ladder truck firefighters obey orders and carefully make their way off the roof and down ladders.

Firefighters maneuver around a downed power line as they labor to put out the fire.

A minute later, firefighters were told the vacate the premises for safety; ladder truck crews were ordered off the roof. and back from the blazing building. Complicating their movements around the building, an electrical power line sparked and fell after to the ground being burned off by the intense heat.

Also causing concern was the discovery of several charred, used propane tanks firefighters had found and removed – causing them to wonder if more fuel tanks, perhaps unused, were still inside the burning house.

These are some of the propane tanks found in and near the house.

“Crews are taking an exterior position for a defensive fire attack,” reported a Fire Bureau official. With additional water supply lines in place, some firefighters turned to preventing the fire from spreading to a nearby house.

Smoke several times further reduced visibility in the area, as crews continued to shoot streams of water into the structure through any openings not boarded up.

At the house next door, to the west, these firefighters stand ready with a “protection line” should the heat of the blaze, or flying embers, begin to ignite this garage.

“The fire is extinguished; companies remain on-scene doing mop up – and investigators are also working to determine cause and damage estimates,” said a Fire Bureau spokesperson at 11:31 a.m.

Public records from the City of Portland Bureau of Development Services (BDS) show the residence to be “owner occupied” – and Multnomah County records indicate a Vancouver address for the property’s owners. Of course, owner-occupied homes are seldom found boarded up.

We checked the neighbor’s assertion that this was a “troubled” property. According to Complaint #4229876 – Nuisance”, dated June 15, a BES inspector reported: “Tall grass and weeds, discards, litter”. The case was closed out on August 2, but no final evaluation was posted.

And now, the house has burned – perhaps to the ground.

© 2018 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™



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