Firefighters worry about vacant house fires

Firefighters worry about vacant house fires

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by KGW Staff

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kgw.com

Posted on June 17, 2014 at 11:30 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jun 18 at 10:12 AM

PORTLAND – Two vacant Portland homes have caught fire in two days and investigators suspect squatters may be behind both incidents.

Firefighters said they worry that the problem might get worse.

Neighbors said the house that went up in flames Tuesday morning, at 8729 SE Malden St., had been vacant and boarded up for months. They said the whole time it had been attracting transients.

More: 2nd vacant house fire in 2 days in SE Portland

Investigators said Tuesday they weren’t sure exactly how the fire started, but they believe it began on the outside of the building.

Monday morning, another vacant home caught fire at 9809 SE Holgate St., badly injuring a woman who was inside.

More: Woman injured in vacant house fire

There are about 7,526 vacant residential units in the city, according to the Portland Housing Bureau.

A manager with the city’s Bureau of Development Services said so far the city has received 84 complaints about vacant or abandoned homes.

Richard Leverenze lives across from the Malden Street home that caught fire Tuesday. He said he's lost track of how many times he has called to report squatters.

“We’ve called them so much that we’re a nuisance now,” he said. “So you don’t want to call anymore because now you’re a nuisance. I mean it’s terrible. You’re in a Catch-22 here.”

Firefighters worry they’ll continue seeing more fires caused by squatters living in vacant or abandoned homes. They urge anyone who sees suspicious activity at a vacant home to report it to the city.

Click here or call 503-823-2633 to report problems to the Bureau of Development Services.

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KGW reporter Mark Hanrahan contributed to this report

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