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'Nightmare situation': Fairview Lake floods after homeless camps block pump access

Fairview city officials said pump crews have faced gunfire from campers while trying to reach the pump house near Fairview Lake. The city of Portland owns the land.

FAIRVIEW, Oregon — The carpet in the basement of Geoff Brown's Fairview home is ripped up. The furniture is gone. By Friday night, the four inches of water he woke up to that morning were down to a centimeter. His patience for the circumstances that got him there were completely gone.

“We’re trying to wrap our arms around the whole scenario,” said Brown.

Fairview Lake is part of the headwaters for the Columbia River slough that feed into Multnomah County's Drainage District. It’s a system that even on very rainy days should have prevented Fairview Lake from rising to flood levels.

“We have a massive, multi-million dollar pump to use on days like this,” said Brown. “Sadly, the Multnomah County Drainage District isn't able to get to the pump because of the homeless encampments.”

Fairview city officials tell KGW that MCDD crews have been trying to access the pump house near Marine Drive and Northeast Interlachen Lane to draw down the water in Fairview Lake, but for the past month, they've encountered hostility from the homeless camps surrounding and even blocking access to the pumps.

“The homeless encampments have created a nightmare for the MCDD crews,” said Randy Lauer, operations manager for city of Fairview Public Works.

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The city of Portland owns the land on which the pump house is located. Brown said since last summer, he and other neighbors have been asking Portland city officials to clear camps in the area, to no avail. Then Friday afternoon, facing a flooding emergency, Multnomah County Sheriff's deputies escorted MCDD technicians to the pump house while tow trucks started removing abandoned cars and debris.

“As soon as they got down there with their trucks and equipment and servicemen to look at the pump, there were six gunshots coming from the homeless encampment that all of us heard,” said Brown.

Lauer said it was the second time gunshots were fired around pump technicians.

KGW reached out to Portland city officials for a response to what's happening near the pump house. On Saturday, a spokesperson said the camp near the was outside the city's jurisdiction and that it had no authority to address it.

Fairview city officials told KGW the area is in Portland city limits. KGW reached out to Portland city officials again, who said they did not have any information about the camp.

In the meantime, Brown continues to pump water from his basement, a “trickle down effect” to the homeless crisis he never expected.

“It's a situation that could have been avoided.”