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Investigators get first up-close look at scene of deadly fire in Northeast Portland

Authorities identified Seth Thompson and Robert Gremillion, both 31, as the men who died in the blaze.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Across the street from the scene of a deadly apartment fire, Becca Olson Kling built a memorial in honor of the two men who died.

"It's been very overwhelming," she said. "I just live across the street. I was here and witnessed a lot of things."

The fire happened at the Heidi Manor apartments on Northeast Weidler Street near 22nd Avenue on July 4. The men who died were identified Wednesday as Seth Thompson and Robert Gremillion, both 31. 

Olson Kling did not know Thompson personally, but she knew of him.

"There was a clearing in the trees and I saw he would sit up there," she said. "I never officially met him but knowing he was there... it's been really heartbreaking to know he went through this."

Credit: Portland Police Bureau
Seth Thompson

"They were sweet people," added Tilisha Brown. "Good people."

Brown lived at Heidi Manor and lost everything in the fire. She said she's beyond grateful to have escaped with her life, but she grieves for the men who passed.

Credit: Portland Police Bureau
Robert Gremillion

"I have love for everyone here so I'm very sad Seth lost his life and for the other gal severely burned and my neighbor downstairs who lost his life," Brown said. "They did not deserve that so that's who my heart goes out to."

Fire investigator Rob Garrison said Wednesday morning was the first time investigators were able to get beyond the tape and into the scene of the burned complex. Garrison said the scene is so large, and the collection of evidence so tedious, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is assisting.

"They're looking for clues," Garrison said. "Anything out of the ordinary. Any ignition source. If they find an ignition source, they need to rule it out or they have to determine if this was a possible cause."

Credit: Mike Benner, KGW staff
The ATF is assisting Portland Fire & Rescue with the collection of evidence.

Garrison said fireworks could be to blame as there were plenty of reports of them in the hours leading up to the blaze. He said smoking or shoddy electrical work could be factors as well.

"I'd love to have some answers," Olson Kling said. "I know our community, folks who lived there would love to have answers."

Neighbors, in the meantime, are thinking about the men who died, the woman who was injured and the others who are now without a home.

"My heart is with them," Olson Kling said. "I know this community is so amazing and will help them recover."

The 25-year-old woman who was critically injured remained in the hospital until Oct. 18 when she died of her injuries. 

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