Abandoned building catches fire, collapses in SE Portland

Multnomah County

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A commercial building in Southeast Portland collapsed as firefighters were battling down a large blaze early Friday.

Portland Fire and Rescue crews first responded to the significant, four-alarm fire near Southeast 9th Avenue and Southeast Alder Street around 12:30 a.m. Firefighters say when they arrived, they saw flames bursting out of the windows.

Around 2:30 a.m., the building partially collapsed in the midst of the firefighting efforts. By the time the sun rose, the majority of the structure had fallen.

Crews focused on exterior attacks due to the severity of the flames inside. Officials say they know this site well — as they’ve responded to multiple fires at the building in the past.

“We’re very familiar with this building,” PFR’s Rob Garrison said. “We know it’s very dangerous so we did not enter the building.”

Throughout the morning, crews focused the bulk of their attention on the two adjoining buildings. PF&R says they were able to save both.

In addition to the severe flames, Boone said firefighters had to deal with hazards like energized power lines coming down and even a sidewalk collapsing over the basement.

Firefighters are expected to stay on the scene throughout the day, extinguishing the remaining flames. PF&R says Southeast Morrison Street and other surrounding roads will likely be blocked for several more hours.

No one was injured and no evacuations were made.

An investigation won’t begin until Monday to determine the cause of the blaze.

Troubled history

“This is one of the most hazardous buildings firefighters can face,” Fire Chief Sara Boone said. “It is so perilous that we indicate these buildings with a U marker indicating that it is an unsafe building. From the first company to arrive, and as the incident expanded, every crew on scene, as well as the incident command staff, made outstanding tactical and operational decisions.”

Officials say the building — which is 115 years old — was abandoned.

The building is one of 64 in the city on PF&R’s list of “unsafe buildings.” According to city records, there’s an active building permit to construct a nine-story building on the site featuring 176 apartments or condos over ground-floor retail and parking. The permit was taken out three years ago and was still under review as of early August.

County records show the land was sold to the current owners in 2016 for $3,790,000. The building that burned has had a troubled past: a nuisance complaint filed two years ago read: “Building open to entry, trash and debris. Building fence broken down.” The complaint was closed at the end of 2019. A dangerous building complaint was made by the fire bureau to the city’s Bureau of Development Services in 2018. The city said they determined the building did not have structural problems so it was not determined to be a “dangerous building.”

KOIN 6 News has reached out to the developer and owner of the property.

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