Arson not ruled out in $5.6 million fire at vacant Portland hotel

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by KGW staff and Associated Press

KING5.com

Posted on September 3, 2012 at 11:41 AM

Updated Monday, Sep 3 at 1:29 PM

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Fire officials say a dramatic fire at the vacant Thunderbird On The River hotel in North Portland has caused an estimated $5.6 million in damages.
  
Portland Fire & Rescue spokesman Michael Silva told the Oregonian that arson has not been ruled out as a cause of the five-alarm fire that took more than 200 fire crew members from around the region to put out. Investigators from the federal bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms were in charge of the investigation.

The fire destroyed major portions of the historic hotel, formerly the Red Lion, located near Interstate 5. The freeway was closed for several hours early Sunday because fire embers were hitting cars on the highway and smoke was limiting visibility.

The blaze broke out shortly before 3 a.m. Sunday as crews arrived to find flames shooting through the roof of the western side of the complex at 1401 N Hayden Island Drive.  Firefighters called the incident to five alarms at around 4 a.m. with more than 200 crew members working to control the blaze.

The last time Portland firefighters battled a five-alarm fire was in 1999, a spokesperson said.

Twenty fire engines, 5 trucks and three fire boats battled the blaze with seven Chief Officers and a mobile command unit coordinating crew members.

Three of the six units are a total loss and a fourth unit is still burning. It's expected to be a total loss and smolder for several days.

Although the hotel has been vacant for several years, the building was being used for storage, including mattresses and other furniture, which contributed to the spread of the fire.

There were no reports of any injuries, but emergency crews are making efforts to keep people out of the buildings. 

 

KGW Reporter Mark Hanrahan contributed to this report

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