HAPPY VALLEY, Ore. (KOIN) — The 3-alarm blaze at a vacant fiberglass warehouse in Happy Valley was “probably intentional” but nearby residents should not be overly concerned about the risk from asbestos.
That’s the latest news from Clackamas County officials one day after a massive fire destroyed Miles Fiberglass, 8855 SE Otty Road in Happy Valley. Fire officials evacuated the nearby Rosewood Station Apartments for health reasons, but lifted those evacuations Sunday afternoon.
Officials said air testing inside and outside the apartment buildings “have all registered below any level of concern for excess asbestos presence,” Clackamas County officials said in a release. “Testing in one unit is still unclear due to the presence of pet hair/dander.”
Dr. Sarah Present | Clackamas County Public Health Officer Dr. Sarah Present said it’s
“always very scary when we’re exposed to things like this that may impact our health.”
County officials held a community meeting at Mount Scott Elementary School Sunday everning to talk about the public health concerns stemming from the fire, specifically asbestos.
Authorities said their early air tests are encouraging.
“Given all the information from the air tests as well as visual inspections inside the apartment buildings, Clackamas County Public Health believes the chance of finding significant asbestos in these surface tests will be low, and no longer warrants a recommendation that keeps people out of their homes,” Dr. Present said.
But if residents still feel unsafe, county officials are working on short-term shelter options. Residents can coordinate that by calling 211.
Testing on interior surfaces continues and tests checking for the presence of asbestos in dust are still pending. Those results are not expected back until Wednesday or Thursday, officials said. Visual inspection inside the buildings was done by representatives of DEQ and the EPA.
Debris from the fire is already being cleaned up, officials said, though ash and debris in the area are still a concern.
Residents are advised not to clean the ash or debris themselves. Instead, contact the county at EOCOperations@clackamas.us and keep kids and pets away from it.
What fire investigators found
Clackamas Fire District 1 Fire Marshal Shawn Olson told those at the community meeting they don’t yet have an ignition source for the fire.
“But based on past history,” Olson said, “and with the surrounding population within that area, can come up with a conclusion that is probably intentional.”
The fire began on the northeast corner on the outside of the building around 3:40 a.m. Saturday. It quickly spread inward and burned for more than 8 hours.
There is no suspect at this time. But fire officials said they’re working closely with the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office.
Neighbors told KOIN 6 News on Saturday intentional fires around the county-owned building have been a frequent problem for years.
“To me it seemed like they set it on fire, because they’ve had homeless problems over there,”
said Miguel, who lives near the site.
Karen Gray, who also lives nearby, said, “We’ve had several fires here from some homeless people. A homeless lady lit it on fire back there and then came back to it and they caught her.”
County officials acknowledged that. They said they’ve been escalating efforts to board up and secure the building, and responded to a concern just a few days ago.
“We hear their concerns. We had a plan to act accordingly and appropriately. We had contracts in place for the demolition to remove those concerns and the eyesore that building had become,” said Dan Johnson, the Clackamas County Director of the Department of Transportation and Development. “It’s unfortunate that we’re dealing with the situation we’re dealing with today, but we are acting as efficiently, as effectively, and as safely as we can.”
KOIN 6 News will continue to follow this story.