PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — What started as a grass fire turned into a 4-alarm blaze fueled by winds Monday evening in Northeast Portland. The flames destroyed at least one town home, damaged several other homes and businesses, and torched about 50 cars near Northeast 85th and Siskiyou Street. The smoke could be seen from miles away.
“I was shocked at the size of the clouds when I pulled up,” said Michael Whitesel, co-owner of the Lumberyard indoor bicycle park which opened in 2012. “I’m just glad everyone is safe.”
Whitesel watched as fire crews tried to stop the flames from jumping to his business. They were successful. After 9 Monday night, KOIN 6 learned the Lumberyard was spared. Whitesel told KOIN 6 he wouldn’t be surprised if the fire started in the lot across from them.
“There has been known to be campers over there,” Whitesel said.
It’s a suspicion shared by James Wade, a coach at Grand Avenue Boxing Club, which shares a wall with the Lumberyard. Wade was there when the flames started spreading through the building.
“It started from the brush, and then the brush just carried on in,” Wade said. Then the flames began consuming cars. “I could hear the cars blowing up and stuff. I heard about six explosions so I’m pretty sure a lot more before they cleared me out.”
The non-profit gym helps train fighters of all ages and skill levels. Everyone got out safely, but the building was destroyed.
“It’s devastating and it’s like, you know, what now?” Wade said. “You see a lot of these fighters in the best shape of their life and they were ready for things to happen and now if you can’t continue the work, it’s like all for naught.”
But Wade says the group of fighters will not be knocked down for long.
“We will make do,” he said. “It’s a part of life. You just got to adjust.”
The Red Cross is helping people impacted by the fire. A shelter is opening at Mannahouse Church at 9200 NE Fremont Street for those impacted by smoke or needing a place to stay for the night.