PORTLAND, Ore. (PAMPLIN) -- Portland officials have permitted nightclubs in two Old Town buildings that its own fire inspector has determined are "inherently dangerous."
The nightclubs, in the city's new Entertainment District, are allowed on the first floor of buildings that are otherwise vacant. Two prominent fire officials from outside Portland, reviewing Fire Bureau inspection reports of the buildings, question why Portland would allow nightclubs to operate in buildings that do not meet universal fire code standards.
The two buildings, the officials say, are dangerous to club patrons, potentially the sites of deadly nightclub fires similar to others that have killed hundreds in other cities.
The Suey Wing building at 209 NW 4th Ave. has for decades been home to the Magic Garden, a first-floor lounge that showcases nude dancers. The building also has leased space to a series of popular nightclubs, including the Crown Room, shuttered recently after a series of Oregon Liquor Control Commission violations.
Portland Fire & Rescue inspections as far back as 2006 noted the building's many dangers. One inspection in 2006 found deteriorating trusses that help hold up the roof.
The Sinnott House, 105 N.W. Third Ave., has been occupied by a series of first-floor nightclubs, the current version of which is The Barrel Room. An inspection report for the Sinnott, which, like the Suey Wing, is constructed of unreinforced masonry, provides a warning to firefighters: "The possibility of a partial or total collapse during emergency operations must be planned for."
Fire crews have been advised to expect "rapid fire spread" and to keep all fire apparatus away from the building.
"Whoever is allowing this to be occupied is a fool," Cliff Munson said. Munson speaks with the authority of 23 years as a firefighter and fire inspector in Long Beach, Calif. He also served a four-year stint as deputy Oregon state fire marshal. Currently, he teaches future firefighters at Chemeketa Community College in Salem.
- Read the rest of this story from the Portland Tribune, on newsstands now: "The Danger Zone."
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