PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Community members are still looking for answers after a huge fire engulfed a city block in Southeast Portland Tuesday afternoon.
Fire officials have not yet revealed what started the blaze which destroyed a building housing multiple local businesses and melted nearby cars. The investigation is still ongoing.
Crews stayed on the scene through Tuesday to extinguish the last hotspots. Four businesses were completely destroyed: Thai Touch, Riyadh’s Lebanese Restaurant, Really Good Stuff, and the Lounge Lizard vintage furniture store.
Those who live and work in the area said the impact of the fire will be felt for some time to come.
‘I’m still processing’
The antique store Really Good Stuff had been in business for 30 years. Owner Evan Shlaes told KOIN 6 News he doesn’t know where to go from here and that this may be the end for the store.
Shlaes said it took decades to accumulate the unique items in his store so even if he opened in a new spot it just wouldn’t be the same.
He did not have fire insurance. His business is a total loss.
One of his employees was in the store when the fire began but managed to get out safely. Shlaes said he was on his way in when he saw the huge plume of smoke. As he got closer, his heart sank.
“I was here every day for 30 years and all of a sudden it’s just gone,” he said. “I’m still processing it.”
Three artists who worked out of Really Good Stuff also lost everything. A GoFundMe campaign to help the artisans of Really Good Stuff rebuild their lost workshop and storefront was set up.
A GoFundMe campaign was also started to help Lounge Lizard.
Arson investigators were on scene Wednesday but it will take time to figure out how the fire started. They will need to bring in heavy machinery to sift through the rubble.
Firefighters initially responded to a call shortly after noon Tuesday about smoke coming from the commercial building near the corner of SE 13th Avenue and Hawthorne Boulevard, PF&R said.
And when they ran into the structure to look for victims, firefighters were met with a raging inferno. PF&R immediately upgraded it to a 2-alarm fire and requested backup.
Two firefighters working on the outside of the building were injured when a smoke explosion blew out the glass, according to PF&R. They were taken to a hospital with minor injuries and were expected to be released later in the day. No other injuries were reported.
Less than an hour later, the roof collapsed, making it much more difficult for crews to get water to the fire.