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Hillsboro businesses, apartments destroyed in multiple fires over 24 hours

Hillsboro Fire & Rescue responded to four separate fires over a 24-hour period New Year's weekend. Multiple residents and business owners were displaced.

HILLSBORO, Ore. — Multiple families and business owners are displaced from four separate fires over the course of 24 hours in Hillsboro.

The biggest was a four-alarm fire downtown. Fire crews responded Sunday around 2:45 a.m. in frigid temperatures to fight fire and ice at the Weil Arcade building on East Main Street between Northeast 2nd and Northeast 3rd.

Several businesses in the building were destroyed as the roof collapsed.

"A lot of people displaced," said a cook at the Hillsboro Pharmacy and Fountain, which was founded in 1873 and sustained heavy water and smoke damage. "Just breaks our heart...I've lived here all my life, and this is a piece of history gone,"

"Just devastating," Hillsboro mayor Steve Callaway said. "Our main street is the heart and soul...To have this be the way your new year starts is just crushing."

About ten blocks down Main Street, part of an apartment complex also sits charred and dripping.

Carlos Estrella Ramirez, 16, saw flames shoot out of his next-door neighbor's apartment on Saturday. He said the laundry room next to his family's unit was the buffer that kept flames away long enough to save their home.

"We're lucky, because this is the side of my house," he told KGW, pointing to the charred exterior siding of his family's apartment.

Seventeen of his neighbors were not as lucky. The Red Cross is now helping them after three of the units were destroyed.

RELATED: Hillsboro apartment fire displaces 17 people

No one was hurt in Saturday's fire, in part because of quick action by firefighters and neighbors like Carlos.

"We were telling other people to get out," he described.

Ashes, soggy clothes and a charred stuffed animal remained outside the next day.

Credit: Galen Ettlin
A charred stuffed animal sits in the wreckage of a Main Street apartment complex in Hillsboro.

Investigators determined combustible materials placed too close to a baseboard heater started the apartment fire.

"Our hearts go out to the families displaced here," said Piseth Pich with Hillsboro Fire & Rescue.

Pich said he is thankful his department had enough staffing during the New Year's weekend to respond to four fires, rotate shifts and offer peer support.

"It can be physically and emotionally demanding for sure," Pich said.

Back downtown, crews stayed at the scene all Sunday to keep hot spots from flaring up at the destroyed businesses.

"I just hope they're all able to rebuild," said Ashley Roth, a bartender at Pizzario about a block away.

Firefighters believe no one was inside the downtown building when it caught fire in the early hours of Sunday morning, and no one was reported hurt.

However, for this community, the loss feels like history went up in smoke.

"It hits you on a personal level," Mayor Callaway said.

One of the businesses impacted, Lucia Isabel Collection, has a GoFundMe page set up to begin recovery efforts.

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