HAPPY VALLEY, Ore. (KOIN) — A 3-alarm fire in an empty fiberglass warehouse that prompted a shelter-in-place order along with the evacuation of 2 nearby buildings in Happy Valley also revealed a dead person inside one of the evacuated buildings.
Investigators looking into the fire at Miles Fiberglass, 8855 SE Otty Road, found the person inside one of the evacuated units at the Rosewood Station Apartments, Clackamas County officials said Saturday evening.
“The State Medical Examiner’s office has reviewed the circumstances of the death and concluded that death occurred prior to the fire,” officials said in a statement. “There is no connection between the decedent and the fire. “
Later, the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office said, “There is no indication that the death is related to the fire, nor do we find the death suspicious.”
The blaze erupted around 3:40 a.m. Saturday. Clackamas firefighters immediately called it a 2-alarm fire and quickly upgraded to a 3-alarm when it appeared a wall of the building may collapse.
Firefighters from both Clackamas and Portland worked to battle the fire from the outside.
‘Kind of scary’
Neighbors who spoke with KOIN 6 News said they woke up to the smoke.
“I just kind of peeked out the window and was like, ‘Whoa, the whole thing is on fire,'” said Miguel, who lives with his family in a complex across the street. “It was big flames, from the top of the building it was probably 20 feet up.”
Samantha Wright said she saw “flames and black smoke everywhere rolling, and the fire department. And I seen people go in and out because they got evacuated. It’s kind of scary.”
Clackamas County officials said the county owns the building and was scheduled to be torn down.
“The county has a contract in place to demolish the building and anticipated beginning that work over the next several weeks,” authorities said. “Recent testing found the presence of asbestos in the building’s materials, and the contract was being adjusted for the proper disposal of those materials.”
Clackamas Fire asked residents to stay inside for their own safety while they got the fire under control. The agency also warned I-205 drivers of the smoky conditions caused by the fire.
Asbestos concerns from fire
The county posted health advisory information on their website.
“Ash and debris is a concern, due to the potential hazardous materials from the fire (asbestos). The county is aware that ash may be resting on the streets, private property and elsewhere in surrounding areas. This could extend up to one mile away in some directions,” officials said Saturday evening. “It’s not advised for the public to clean ash or debris up themselves. To report debris, please contact the county at EOCoperations@clackamas.us with specific details about the location and debris. If you see ash or debris, keep children and pets away until it has been cleaned.”
The 2 nearby buildings evacuated will remain evacuated. Clackamas County officials said they “worked to ensure those affected residents have a place to go with an emergency shelter.”
“There is an evacuation advisory in effect for those two structures because of a direct smoke impingement to that building,” said Clackamas Fire District 1 Fire Marshal Shawn Olson. “The concern there is byproducts of fire as deposited onto the building and possibly into the interior of those apartments.”
But residents like Miguel living less than a minute from the site, including some in the evacuated complex, told KOIN 6 News they are not under any orders and have heard little to nothing from officials.
“I have 3 little ones — 4-year-old twins and a 5-year-old and they have asthma and health problems,” Wright said. “I have asthma. My mom has had strokes and has asthma. Like this can make us really sick.”
Clackamas County officials said ash and debris is a concern and could span nearly a mile. Residents wonder if more should be done.
“We’ve got 3 kids, too. They live here,” Miguel said. “It’s quite a concern.”
Neighbor Karen Gray wondered if everyone should be wearing masks.
Because that is fiberglass and sure it goes along with the buses, and that’s cancer causing, that’s lung problems,” Gray said. “We’re just getting over COVID. And who’s taking care of us?”
The Springwater Corridor biking trail and the TriMet line from the Fuller Road Station to the Clackamas Town Center will be closed until officials say otherwise.
KOIN 6 News will continue to follow this story.