PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Portland Korean Church is being torn down after it burned in a fire earlier in the week.
Demolition started around 12 p.m. Friday. Officials said there is no estimated timeline for completion as the operation will reportedly be slow and methodical.
The century-old building was determined to be a safety risk to the public, prompting officials to authorize the demolition without a permit. There was concern the wreckage could topple over in the wind, so fire officials have been monitoring the church since it went up in flames Tuesday evening.
Cameron Storer, who goes by Nicolette Fait, confessed to breaking into the church and lighting papers with a cigarette lighter before walking out and watching the building burn from a nearby Plaid Pantry, according to court documents. The 27-year-old is facing charges for first and second-degree arson and second-degree burglary.
Investigators said a confession, along with witness statements, definitely helps and can speed along the process some, but they still have to put together a full case and make sure that confession corroborates what the evidence shows.
Jason Andersen, the senior investigator with Portland Fire and Rescue’s Fire Investigations Unit, said everything is matching up and they believe the right person is behind bars.
Fire officials are asking people to avoid the area near the church.
Streets near the church remain closed. Officials expect traffic and transit with the Portland Streetcar to be impacted until the demolition is cleared.
This wasn’t the first fire the church had experienced. Years prior, other fires rendered the building unsafe for first responders to enter. It added a whole new hurdle for fire investigators to still do their jobs.
Normally, these investigators go right into the burned wreckage inspecting every bit of debris up close, but in this case, they had to rely on technology to give them a view inside as they worked to pinpoint what started it and anything that could link back to the suspect.
Using an internal source, along with assistance by Scappoose Fire, Portland Fire and Rescue used a drone to go inside and not only explore areas of specific interest like where they believe the fire started, but overall document the entire scene. The process produced 3D images for them to comb through, which is a new method for the Fire Investigations Unit.
“This is the first time we’ve used this UAV technology to do what we do what we did but with the capabilities it has, it has definitely allowed us to conduct a scene examination and document it in a way that we would have otherwise not been able to do,” Andersen said.
Still, Andersen said there was a learning curve to this technology, comparing it to a surgeon used to performing on live patients, but instead being asked to do that job via robot from another room.