Take quick look: You can learn a lesson from what officials say was a critical mistake made by members of this household‚

Portland Fire and Rescue’s Station 7 arrived on-scene at this house fire within minutes‚ yet, still too late to prevent substantial damage.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Neighbors and passers by call 9-1-1 Emergency and report smoke billowing smoke and flames as a home in the 12600 block of SE Stark St. is ravaged by fire.

Finds home fully involved in fire

“We had heavy fire and smoke showing at this two-story frame house when we got here,” reports Portland Fire & Rescue’s Battalion 3 Chief, Chris Babcock the morning of May 27.

The Babcock says the home looks “lived in”. He says the dwelling is furnished and points out the brand new trampoline in the side yard, and fresh food in outdoor pet dishes.

“We did a very through search of all rooms didn’t find any occupants. The good news is there wasn’t anyone at home, no one is injured” Babcock tells us. “Unfortunately, someone will come home to find their house pretty badly damaged.”

While officials didn’t release the family’s name, they did tell us the family who occupied this house came home from church to find their home ravaged by fire.

This home was destroyed, investigators believe, because a clothes iron was left plugged in, turned on, and overheated.

Unattended clothes iron suspected as cause
While the investigation hasn’t been completed, indications are, Portland Fire & Rescue’s spokesman Lt. Allen Oswalt later tells us, the fire appears to have started in the laundry room‚ most likely by an electric iron left plugged in.

“Please, take a moment to make sure your coffee maker, electric clothes iron, or even curling iron is unplugged before you leave your house,” implores Oswalt. “It saddens all firefighters to see a home devastated by an appliance left plugged in‚ and by one forgetful moment.”

Firefighters from Station 7 roll up their hoses after putting out the house fire‚ one that might have been avoided, authorities say.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Look at this one and you’ll see why elementary students wanted to do more than just contribute only during the May 12 post-office-sponsored food-gathering event‚

Tammy Boone’s 5th Grade class at Ventura Park Elementary was chosen to help load up the food collected during their school’s “Stamp Out Hunger” drive.

Story and photo by David F. Ashton
We, along with many other East Portland residents, put out some food items in the yellow collection bags left by postal carriers in their “Stamp Out Hunger” campaign on May 12.

But that wasn’t enough for students at Ventura Park Elementary School, in the David Douglas School District.

Response was ‘totally awesome’
As they were loading boxes of food to be taken to the needy, Fifth-grader Dammon Bowen told us, “It’s totally awesome that our school is donating all this food. It is great we’re doing this for people. Maybe this will help people who need it to get what they need.”

Heather Holsti, from the same class explained, “The people who can’t afford food still need to survive. We’re donating the food to them. That is important. I feel really good about what we’re doing.”

Week-long campaign produces truckload of food
Both of these students are in Tammy Boone’s 5th Grade at the school. “We’ve collected food all week for this drive. Our class is out helping load up the truck today because we donated two big boxes of food. We were chosen to help deliver the food to the truck.”

It is important for kids to learn to give back to their community, Boone said. “From this, they’ve learned the value of giving, generosity, and to think of more people beyond themselves and their families.”

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

See why folks came from all over outer East Portland to enjoy this wine festival and gourmet dinner‚

Dr. Thomas B. Taylor III shares his knowledge of fine wine with the 42 who gathered for the Sip of Parkrose.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The banquet room at Steamers Restaurant and Lounge quickly filled, as members and guests filed in the ‘Sip of Parkrose’ event put on by the Parkrose Business Foundation a couple of weeks ago.

“We created this event to benefit the Parkrose Business Foundation’s Scholarship fund,” chair Gail Bash told us. “We’re enjoying entrees of Grilled Wild Salmon, Cajun Style, or Saut?©ed Medallions of Pork Tenderloin.”

Carol Kohn and John Palmer are ready to enjoy find wine and food at Steamer’s Restaurant and Lounge. They’re being checked in the event by Carol and Gail Bash.

‘Wine Doctor’ educates palates
A different wine was paired with each course. The wines were selected by Dr. Thomas Taylor III, a man with 20 years experience pairing fine wines with gourmet food.

As he prepared to introduce the first wine, Dr. Taylor explained, “I love wine. I have a 30 year history with wine. I grew up with it. I learned about it when I was quite young. I met people in the import wine business, and the restaurant business‚ it all goes together.”

Asked why he was so delighted by wine, Taylor said, “Wine is both a social and food phenomenon. It goes with everything.”

Gordon Boorse, Joanne Hazel, Brenda Tank and Don Tank ready to enjoy fine dining and wines at first-ever “Sip of Parkrose” event.

Event funds another Parkrose scholarship
“The event was very successful,” commented Bash after the event. “42 people attended; we all learned more about how to enjoy wine, and had a great dinner prepared by Chef Edgar, and served by Hostess Eileen.”

The success of this event allows the group to fund “a scholarship and had half” for Parkrose High School seniors, Bash said.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Meet the DDHS junior who will be will be traveling to D.C. in June to see her painting hung in our nation’s capital. You’ll also meet two more of the 300 David Douglas High artists at the school’s annual show‚

Quincy Pogolowitz is the junior (soon to be senior) at David Douglas High School who won the 3rd Congressional District Discovery Art Competition. She and her family will fly to D.C. in June, and watch in person as her art is hung for display.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The breezeway in David Douglas Schools’ administrative center was packed with art works of all kinds, on May 17 as their Annual Student Art Show opened.

Many of the student artists told us that their art education is “just for fun”‚ but a few have chosen art and design oriented careers.

Artwork goes to Washington D.C. — so does she!
“I’m planning to go into fashion design,” said Quincy Pogolowitz, soon to be a senior at David Douglas High.

Pogolowitz won out over student artists from 14 schools in Congressman Earl Blumenauer’s district who submitted art for consideration in the 3rd Congressional District Discovery Art Competition.

“It’s great,” Pogolowitz told us, “because they’re sending us airline ticket, so my parents and I can travel to Washington D.C. for a ceremony with Congressman Blumenauer, when my painting will be hung in a gallery at our nation’s capital.”

In addition to having her work on display in D.C. for the next year, Pogolowitz also won a $5,000 scholarship to the Savannah School of Design in Georgia.

We asked how Pogolowitz evaluated the artwork of others.

“I look by how much effort, time‚ but mostly, emotion‚ is put into it,” she replied. “The technical skill the artist demonstrates does matter. But, the quality of work depends on the skill level of the artist and medium. And, a kindergartener won’t have the same technical level as an adult who has worked with a medium for many years.”

Mandy Vhang, now ending her freshman year at DDHS, tells us, “I’ll probably keep doing art. Colors and designs appeal to me the most.”

Work of 300 students exhibited
David Douglas High School’s seven art teachers each encourage their students to display their best work at the end-of-year art show.

“These kids work really hard all year long,” said Deena Boehme, art instructor at the school. “They bring their friends and families to the showcase, and let them see what they’ve been doing. It gives them the opportunity to feel proud of their best artistic accomplishment.”

The art show, Boehme added, also encourages art students to continue developing their skills. “And more, the students get to see what other students, in other classes, are doing,” explained Boehme.

Billy Dreitlein, a sophomore, says he likes drawing and painting, but really likes making fused glass art. “It’s just fun,” he says.

©2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Did you miss the “Fun-O-Rama”? If you did, take a look and see how much fun they really had in Gateway‚

The Fun-O-Rama Parade approaches‚ what follows are bands, floats and lots of great family fun. Yes, that is Multnomah County Sheriff Bernie Giusto on the ATV!

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Outer East Portland’s second regional parade of the season of the season was a rousing success‚ according to viewers, participants and officials of the group that puts on the annual civic pride festival, the Gateway Area Business Association (GABA).

The streets were lined with spectators along NE Halsey St., from NE 130th Ave. west to 106th Ave. They heard marching bands, watched floats, saw Portland Rose Festival Princesses, snacked on candy handed out, laughed at clowns, ogled gals in bikinis and had a great time.

After the parade, the Community Fair at 111th Square kicked in, welcoming visitors to meet Gateway area business people, community service groups and nosh on a Portland Police Cadet dog.

Enjoy our photo album of the event:

Fred Sanchez James Luu, Student Body President Parkrose High School, his principal, Roy Reynolds; Barbara Rommel, Superintendent, David Douglas Schools; and Ellyn Ward, ASP President, David Douglas High School are on the reviewing stand.

Superintendent of Parkrose Schools, Michael Taylor, is the Grand Marshall of this Fun-O-Rama Parade.

The Parkrose Marching Band is one of the many marching musical groups.

East Portland’s Rose Festival Princesses ride in the parade. (top left and right) Margaret Drew, Parkrose High School; Chelsea Lynn, David Douglas High School; (bottom left and right) Hong Le, Marshall Campus; and Audra Shaw, Madison High School.

Blowing bubbles Evelyn Hull watching over Mark and Chloe.

Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams, rides the Fun-O-Rama Parade in “Big Country” style!

East County’s own Multnomah County Commissioner, Lonnie Roberts greets his fans.

The Rossi Posse is on the lookout for their “most wanted” man‚ Mike Taylor. And, they’re reminding folks about the good time to be had at their annual Barn Bash on July 14!

Gateway’s famous Keystone Kops tickle the crowd’s funny bone (and they didn’t break any of their own!) at the Fun-O-Rama Parade.

Steevie Weevie twists up balloons‚ and gets in a duel with Bryce Duncan at the Community Fair at 111th Square.

Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Cadets cook up, and serve, more than 400 gourmet hot dogs at the Community Fair.

Finally catching up with their “most wanted man”, the Parkrose Rossi Posse struggles against the Gateway Keystone Kops to take in Michael Taylor.

Adding beauty and grace to the Community Fair are the lovely ladies of the Portland Rose Festival Court.

Community associations, such as the East Portland Neighborhood Office are represented at the Community Fair. Arlene Kimura, chair of the Hazelwood Neighborhood, volunteers to inform folks about area associations.

Sarah Revel gets a bicycle safety helmet for her son, Marcel, with help of Portland Police Cadet Leanna Heasley.

David Panichello giving Fred Sanchez the GABA Citizen of the Year Award; standing with them are current Sanchez’s son and GABA president, Alan and wife Ann Sanchez. Fred told the people at the fair, “I thank our association, sponsors and neighborhood for supporting Gateway since 1950. I’ve not been a member that long. Thanks for honoring me. It means a lot. I appreciate it. Thank you Gateway board and members ‚Äì but most of all, thank you for supporting Gateway.”

Parkrose High School student Tyree Harris is awarded a $500 to help fund his participation in the Youth Leadership Program at Yale University by Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman and GABA President Alan Sanchez.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Did you know “Izzy” is a real person? You’ll meet her, and her son, as they share why their family loves to make the pizza that makes people smile‚

Izzy Covalt and her son Jim, looking at the newly-hung photo mural depicting their family’s five-decade romance with pizza, at the Eastport Plaza Izzy’s Pizza Bar & Classic Buffet restaurant.

Story and photo by David F. Ashton
As diners enjoy great pizza, specialty smoked delights, or crisp, cool salads from the buffet tables at an Izzy’s Pizza Bar & Classic Buffet restaurant, they may wonder, “Is there really an ‘Izzy’ behind this”?

Yes there is! Meet Isabel “Izzy” Covalt, matriarch of the “first family of Pizza” in Portland‚ and throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Pizza before pizza parlors
“Fifty years ago, here in Portland, the only places serving pizza were Italian restaurants, as part of their fare,” she began.

“My husband, Jim Covalt, hadn’t finished college yet. He was in school. I was doing some part time nursing. Someone told him about his new pizza place that was being built on SE Foster Road. They were looking for someone to tend bar. He hadn’t been around alcohol; it didn’t appeal to him.

“He called my mother, herself a teetotaler, and asked her about it. ‘Jim, a job is a job’, she told him.”

‘Shakey’ job leads to career
Her husband got the job. The restaurant was called Shakey’s Pizza — founded Sacramento, California, in 1954. When the Portland restaurant opened, in Portland, Jim Covolt was their bartender. He soon learned the business, and became an assistant manager.

It looked like such a good business that the Covalts introduced the owners to the concept of franchising. “There weren’t franchises back then,” Izzy told us.

With funding provided by friends, and Izzy’s parents, the Covalts opened their first Shakey’s Pizza store in 1958. But, they had to move to Albany to do it‚ the company didn’t want franchise stores competing with them in Portland.

“We opened and operated franchises throughout mid- and southern Oregon, and in Montana,” Izzy recalled.

Says “goodbye” to franchise holder
The franchising company was sold to one conglomerate after another. “One of them was the Hunt Brothers‚ the Texas twosome who tried to corner the silver market,” Izzy said. “They kept losing ground.”

Izzy said that her husband died in 1978. “And, our franchise was up for renewal. We were their first franchisors, and had 19 years with them. But they wanted to change the terms. I decided to go on my own.

“We could have opened other kinds of restaurants, but it never entered my head. I never expected to go into the restaurant business when I was young. But, I found I like working with people and food.”

The first Izzy’s Pizza store was in Albany, and then they opened restaurants in Corvallis, Eugene, Bend, and Springfield. “We opened Izzy’s in Gresham in 1985. Jim (Junior) and David Covalt ran that operation.”

Innovation is difference between restaurants
Some of the Izzy’s Pizza Bar & Classic Buffet restaurants are still owned by members of the Covalt family; others are franchised.

Jim Covalt Jr. owns the Eastport Plaza location. “I’m creating a buffet that doesn’t serve typical buffet food. We have the freshest food possible. We’ve brought live music back to our restaurant.”

He told us he’s still coming up with new ideas at his restaurant, much like his father did. “My dad was the first person to put sliced tomatoes on Canadian bacon pizzas. He also threw on some pineapple. His friends thought it was delicious. But because the new recipes strayed from the set menu, the franchise almost closed him down for serving them.”

Jim Covalt Jr. owns this restaurant. “I’m hanging my hat here at Eastport Plaza.”

Most important to Jim Jr. is his approach with customers. “I think Shakey had the right idea: good food, beer, music, and having fun. It is working. More and more people are coming in. When they come to Eastport, they realize there is a difference between restaurants.”

Jim Covalt is also an active member in the community; he’s a member of the East Portland Chamber of Commerce, and hosts activities at his restaurant. He’s also involved with the 82nd Ave. of Roses Business Association.

“I’m hanging my hat here at Eastport Plaza,” Jim told us in parting. “Come in and see what’s new here.”

To learn more about Oregon’s “first family of pizza”, read Izzy Covalt’s book, “My Name is Izzy”. It’s available at www.Amazon.com.

To visit the Eastport Plaza web page‚ click HERE, or see www.izzyspizza.com.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

It wasn’t an “official” event‚ but see how neighborhood association members pitched in to help a senior citizen in need‚

Clint Lenard, wearing the red shirt in the background, orchestrated the clean up a badly-overgrown senior citizen’s yard.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The Lents Neighborhood home was in great condition; good siding, solid roof, and a new deck. The only problem was that the yard was so overgrown‚ one couldn’t see the house from the street.

“It seemed like a good idea to give her a hand,” said project organizer, Clint Lenard, a neighborhood association board member.

“The homeowner didn’t have anyone to help her with the yard work. Not only was the house hidden, you couldn’t hardly walk up to get in,” Lenard explained.

Neighbor Casey Meredith, East Portland Crime Reduction Specialist Rosanne Lee, and association member Rachel Slottke find and remove all kinds of things while clearing the yard.

One of the volunteers, Casey Meredith climbed trees, removed rubbish and hauled chips.

“I live down the street. Lenard asked me to help, and here we are,” Meredith said. “You can see by the chips how much we’ve taken out.”

Lents Neighborhood Association member John Notis rakes some of the chips generated from the massive clean-up project.

While their effort didn’t make the front page of the newspapers, it didn’t go unnoticed by neighbors. “We’re just trying to make a difference here in Lents,” Lenard commented as he wiped sweat from his brow.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Discover why these students joined the “No Ivy League”‚ and learn how neighbors work to make this hidden park a natural sanctuary‚

Portland Christian School students Adan Rodriguez, East Portland parks advocate Linda Robinson, Shelby Remington, Kenda Whener, Austin Swift, Sterling Anderson, Edgar Rodriguez, Ashley Runyan, teacher Kena Jacobs, Nathan Harris and Matt Joslen‚ after they attacked ivy at Glendoveer Woods.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Nowhere in Glendoveer Woods was a safe place for ivy plants to hide on May 5, as a troupe of youngsters from local schools hunted the invasive plants down and ripped ’em out by their roots.

“It was great,” said East Portland parks advocate Linda Robinson. “We had 25 volunteers at our ‘No Ivy Day’ event at Glendoveer Woods from 9 am until noon.”

Many of the students were from Portland Christian School. “We heard about it from your web site,” said the kids’ teacher, Kena Jacobs.

“Each fall, I present a unit for our seventh graders on noxious weeds. We decided to go out and ‘fight ivy’. I talked with the superintendent about it. He said it, fine, go ahead,” Jacobs told us.

But soon, the storms of winter arrived. Because of the bad weather, Jacobs said they put the project off until the spring.

“Not long ago, one of my students suggested we remove some ivy. A friend sent me a link to the East Portland News Service, about this event here today,” Jacobs added.

Why Ivy is targeted
“Ivy wipes out the diversity of plants in green places and wooded areas by smothering them with a viney mat,” Robinson explained. “This destroys native plans that provide food and shelter for desirable wildlife.”

Ivy vines are “girdled” and stripped all the way around the tree’s lower trunk then pulled from a six foot circle around the tree, Robinson said. This technique, known as “the lifesaver”, kills ivy in the upper reaches of the tree and thwarts ivy’s re-growth up the tree.

Goldann Salazar, Niki Gainer, Sam Jones and Dani Gainer from Madison High School.

Joining these students and the adult neighborhood volunteers were Madison High School students.

“Niki and I had do create a senior project,” said Dani Gainer. “We decided to do it on invasive plant species. This is part of our project‚ and we got a couple of friends to come and help.”

The event was part of “No Ivy Day #5”, a Portland-wide event dedicated to removing invasive plant species and improving natural areas.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

See why women were selling this summertime treat outside New Seasons markets on May 12‚

Sellwood New Seasons Market customer Darcia Krause, here being served strawberry shortcake by Soroptimist Cheri Wonsley, David Koch, Shauna Nokleby and Beth Dahlgaard.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
In spots across the city, Portlanders were smacking their lips as they enjoyed fresh, strawberry shortcake treats on May 12.

“New Seasons Market generously supplied the space and ingredients to make and sell strawberry shortcake at their stores,” Soroptimist Cheri Wonsley told us, as she and her crew was dishing up the delectable desserts-to-go at the Sellwood New Seasons on SE Tacoma Street.

“All the money we Soroptimists raise today is going to help domestic abuse shelters in the greater Portland area,” explained Wonsley. “We hope to raise $7,000 from this event.”

The funds, she added, is to be divided among Bradley-Angle House, Clackamas women and Children’s Services, Domestic Violence Resource Center, Listen To Kids, Raphael House of Portland, The Salvation Army West Women’s and Children’s Shelter, and the YMCA Yolanda House.

The word “Soroptimist”, we learned, is coined from the Latin words soror and optima, and loosely translated as “best for women”. If you want to learn more, the East Portland Soroptimist club meets the first three Mondays of each month, from 6-8 pm at Why not Wine, 7907 SE Stark Street. For more information, see www.si-pdxeast.org.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Discover why people by the hundreds migrated to Sellwood Park for this annual celebration of their feathered friends‚

Jennifer Parks, an Audubon Society volunteer, holds Finnegan, a hungry peregrine falcon.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The biggest day for birders at Oaks Bottom and Sellwood Park is the annual “Festival of the Birds” celebration.

As families, toting binoculars and telescopes glide past us, Karen Munday, Urban Wildlife Specialist at the Portland Audubon Society, is all smiles about the big turnout.

“The idea is to get people out here to celebrate International Migratory Bird day today, May 12” Munday explains. “This festival for families; we have attractions for both kids and adults. Our sponsors are hosting activities ranging from bird-plaque painting to guided bird walks every half hour.”

Siena Geren, with just a little help from her dad Mark, paints a wooden bird plaque.

The event, sponsored by U.S. Fish & Wildlife, Portland Audubon Society and Portland Parks & Recreation is put on to raise awareness about the birds that live in, and migrate through, the greater Portland area.

Sue Thomas with Portland Parks & Recreation continues, adding, “We want people to understand that parks are a place where birds can stop when whey migrate. A lot of birds rest and feed here. We need to be mindful of them. Their health is an indicator of the health of our parks.”

The Oaks Bottom wetlands, because of its varied terrain ‚Äì the Oak bluff area, grasslands, ponds, amphibians, and insects for food ‚Äì  is a great place for all kinds of birds, says Thomas. And, it’s a great place for people who want to study birds too.

“This spring, we’ve been working with Reed College students,” Thomas told us. “We’ve put in a bird garden at the bottom of the north end of Oaks Bottom. We’ve planted berries and seed plants that will attract hungry birds.”

As we walk along the bluff trail, many organizations have set up information stations and craft booths.

The Audubon Society’s Karen Munday says Oaks Bottom is a great place to visit any time of year‚ but especially during the Festival of the Birds.

Along the way, we meet Jennifer Parks, volunteer with the Audubon Society. “I’m holding Finnegan, a peregrine falcon. He was born with a deformed foot; it is turned upside down. He doesn’t have the ability to hunt. He was discovered at a nest site in the Columbia Gorge in May 2000. He’s just turning seven.”

Finnegan stares at us with a hungry look. “No, he hasn’t been fed yet, and you are standing a little closer to him than he’s used to,” warns Parks.

On the way out, we ask wildlife specialist Munday why this particular park is so special to her.

Hazel, the event guest on the arm of volunteer Ann Spencer, gives a hoot about the good work of the Audubon Society. Hazel is a Northern Oregon Spotted Owl.

“So many wonderful neo-tropical [bird] migrants spend their winters in Central America, but the come through Portland on their way north or south. We’re lucky to have great bird habitat here‚ places like Oaks Bottom‚ that act as spots for breeding and feeding for migratory birds.”

Munday adds, “Oaks Bottom is an amazing place any time of year. Portland Audubon Society holds walks all year around. Come join us!”

You can learn more about their organization by visiting www.AudubonPortland.org

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

18 hours after the last truck firebombing, police arrest three suspected arsonists. Was this a terrorist attack? Were radicals making a political statement? Find out right here‚

Arson K-9 Chyenne and handler, PF&R Fire Investigator Rick Aragon, search for clues at the SE Tolman St. firebombing of a Honda Element.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
As the number of vehicles torched and burned beyond repair‚ including a vehicle fire that sets an occupied home ablaze‚ increased to seven during the nights of May 22 and 23, so did the fears of Southeast Portland residents.

Vehicle owners, especially those of Hondas and other compact SUVs, wonder if they were being targeted by eco-terrorists, or perhaps a band of thugs with a brand-specific vendetta.

“My half-ton pickup truck burns a lot more fuel than my neighbor’s Honda Element did,” Jim Cornetta told us as he looked down SE Tolman Street at the charred Honda being examined by fire inspectors on May 23. “I wonder if I should stay up tonight and keep watch.”

This Honda was found alaze on SE Raymond Street. By the time firefighters extinguish the flames, the car is destroyed.

Fiery path of destruction
Until the firebugs were caught, citizens had good reason to worry. In the wee hours of May 22, three Honda CRV sub-SUVs and 1 Ford Ranger were targeted. Three more were burned the following night.

“Looking at the times and locations, it wasn’t difficult to see the arsonists’ path,” Portland Fire & Rescue’s Lt. Allen Oswalt told us. He read from the record: SE 66th at 4:24 am; 75th & Division at 4:42 am; SE 75th‚ firefighters found this Honda CRV fully involved in flames, only five feet from a house at 4:52 am; then, another, at SE 36th and Raymond at 5:24 am.

Early the following morning two vehicles just inside Clackamas County were torched, as was that Honda Element on SE Tolman Street.

Immediate investigation begins
As the sun came up on May 22, the Metro Arson Task Force fanned out across Southeast Portland. Working throughout the day and night, they inspected burned vehicles, took samples and wrote reports at each arson site. “The first fire started in a pickup truck,” said Oswalt, “but went out on its own.”

We saw an official accelerant-sniffing dog, Cheyenne, with PF&R handler, Fire Investigator Rick Aragon, gathering evidence. “The task force is made up of investigators from Portland Fire & Rescue, Portland Police Bureau, the federal ATF, and the FBI,” Oswalt commented.

An arson investigator leaves a burned Honda Element as he goes to file his report. All but one of the vehicles in the SE Portland arson spree were charred beyond repair.

Neighbors provide valuable leads
Investigators pored through clues given them by witnesses of the blazes. Lists of possible getaway vehicle descriptions were created and distributed.

Portland Police Bureau’s Southeast Precinct assigned detectives and undercover officers; uniformed patrol officers were put on alert as the hunt for the arsonists continued.

A little before midnight on May 23, SE Precinct officers Tashia Hager and Nichole Green were dispatched on a vandalism call in the 6100 block of SE Lexington Street. On-scene, they spotted a car suspected of being involved in the fire-bombings. As Hager and Green questioned the car’s occupants, they learned “information” which potentially connected these subjects to the vehicle arsons. The possible firebugs were turned over to arson investigators.

Police say they suspect Dennis Panichello and Lena Thi Son of torching vehicles across SE Portland.

Suspected arsonists arrested
As dawn broke May 24, the Metro Arson Task Force announced three arrests in the case.

Authorities said they are bringing a variety of charges against the three associated with that car: 27-year-old Dennis Panichello, 19-year-old Lena Thi Son, and a 14-year old juvenile, whose name is withheld to due to age.

Apart from the apparent desire to set vehicles on fire, authorities said the trio of suspects had no political or social motive.

Dennis Panichello’s father publicly blamed “the system” for his son’s problems‚ saying his son needed mental health care, but the young man’s probation officer didn’t help him get treatment.

Suspects face multiple charges
The charges leveled at the suspects are substantial. They include one “Measure 11” count of Arson I; that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years, if convicted. This charge is being brought, authorities say, because two residents were in the nearby home set ablaze by one of the burning vehicles.

Other charges include seven counts of Arson II, and one count of Criminal Mischief I. Total prison time could total 26 years, and total fines could mount up to over $500,000.

©2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

There wasn’t much the driver could do, cops say, when a youngster shot out into the street right in front of the car on NE Halsey St. There are lessons about helmets and stop signs to be learned from this tragic story‚

An investigator from the Portland Police Bureau’s Traffic Division uses a GPS measuring device, while determining the facts of this car-versus-bicycle accident that left a boy in very critical condition.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Along outer NE Halsey St., east of Glendoveer, the terrain rises steeply as one travels south‚ and away from the Columbia River basin.

It’s a difficult climb on foot up SE 157th Avenue‚ riding up the hill would be nearly impossible. Yet, neighbors say, the kids love the thrill of approaching this hill from the top, via SE Glisan Street, and “rocketing” down the steep grade of “thrill hill”, where the joy ride can abruptly end at SE Halsey Street.

Thrill ride ends in serious injury
Moments before 5 pm on May 22, Janet Gomez is driving her Kia on NE Halsey Street. Police say the evidence shows she isn’t speeding, nor impaired, as she heads east from the light at NE 142nd Avenue.

“A 14-year-old young man was on his BMX bicycle,” Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Sgt. Dan Costello tells us on-scene. “From what we can tell, he was going lickety-split down the steep hill on SE 157th, didn’t stop at the stop sign at Halsey St., and rode right in front of the Kia.”

Skid marks before the impact indicate the driver was going the speed limit and tried to avoid the accident, police say.

Costello points out the skid marks left when the driver tried to avoid the bicyclist. “Even though she wasn’t speeding, the impact threw the boy about thirty feet through the air, and his bicycle about fifty feet.”

We learn that the injured boy, with ID in his pocket indicating he’s a student at Barlow High School, was rushed Emanuel Hospital in critical condition.

When we follow up, the police spokesman, Sgt. Brian Schmautz, reports the young man remains in very critical condition. “He wasn’t wearing a helmet.”

No citations have been issued.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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