Montavilla homeless camp one of four set ablaze on New Years Day

Flames shooting above the I-205 buffer wall alerted neighbors to this outer East Portland homeless camp blaze …

Stopped along the frontage ramp, connecting the Interstate-205 Freeway Glisan Street exit to SE Stark Street, Portland Fire & Rescue pull hoses to put out a homeless camp fire on the eastern edge of the Montavilla neighborhood.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

After East Portland News covered two early morning shooting incidents on January 1, our attention was then drawn to intense flames, leaping high into the air from the top of the western berm of the west side of southbound Interstate 205, near the East Burnside Street viaduct, at about 3 a.m.

Being southbound, and seeing no safe place to stop, we circled around from the SE Division Street off-ramp and headed back north to the photograph firefighters from the east side of the freeway.

What was once a substantial encampment is now charred rubble; firefighters keep hoses directed onto the smoldering remains of the tents and personal goods.

Several callers to the 9-1-1 Center raised an alarm about a homeless encampment on fire; Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) firefighters were dispatched at 3:11:39 a.m., PF&R Cully Station’s Engine Company 12, located near The Grotto, was first to respond.

Using their onboard water supply, firefighters drenched the remains of what had been a substantial camp, located high above the freeway against the tall buffer wall.

A firefighter turns over the still-smoking camp ruins so embers can be completely snuffed out.

No one, other than firefighters, appeared to be in the area; apparently, the camp’s resident(s) had scattered when the fire started.

“After looking at the report, it doesn’t appear that anyone was injured in this fire,” PF&R Public Information Officer Terry Foster later told East Portland News.

New Year’s Day camp fires

9:00 a.m. near SE 6th and Woodward Street – PF&R crews found a man in his  40’s who had second-degree burns on one of his hands from the use of an accelerant.

This is one of the three other homeless camps that burned on New Year’s Day. PF&R image

9:30 a.m. near NE Grand and Everett Street – Crews responded to a tent fire, and found a man and woman with “severe burns to their lower extremities”. A propane heater inside the tent had leaked and caused the flames/explosion.

3:20 p.m. near SW Oak and 4th Avenue – An unattended “warming candle” caught a sleeping bag on fire, giving a man second degree burns to his arm and upper leg. Passersby noticed the smoke coming from his tent and called the 9-1-1 Center.

“Portland Fire & Rescue would like to remind everyone to keep heaters and burning materials away from combustibles,” Foster advised. “If you need a warm place to stay, Call 2-1-1 or check for the latest list of shelter locations, and for help with transportation to a shelter.”

© 2022 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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