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Transients' campfire damages new MLK viaduct

by: DAVID F. ASHTON - This transient camp, located alongside of S.E. Division Street under the MLK Blvd. Viaduct exploded into fire, causing some visible damage to the bridge.As the afternoon rush of traffic was tapering off, at 6:08 pm on Tuesday, September 10, motorists noticed thick smoke – and some reported seeing flames – coming up both sides of the Grand and MLK Boulevard Viaduct just north of the Ross Island Bridge.

The crew of Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) Engine 21, responding from the foot of Hawthorne Boulevard, reported seeing the blaze as they arrived below the bridge, on S.E. Division Street.

“Firefighters found an unsupervised transient campfire under the viaduct,” PF&R Public Information Officer Lt. Rich Chatman told THE BEE. “The crew used their ‘Salvage Line’, a smaller-diameter hose on a reel, mounted on the engine, to extinguish the flames.”

Looking at the records, Chatman added, “Witnesses reported hearing a small explosion.”

At the scene, it became clear that the fire had burned hot enough to cause the relatively-new concrete abutment under the new viaduct to “spall” (flake off in chunks).

Because Highway 99E is an Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) roadway, their inspectors were called in to inspect the damage.

“Our preliminary estimate of damage, so far, is $5,000 to $7, 000,” ODOT Region 1 Public Information Officer Don Hamilton told THE BEE. “The repair cost could be considerably higher, if the fire damaged the bridge bearings,” Hamilton added. “We’ll take every step necessary to make sure the new bridge remains in safe working order.”

By DAVID F. ASHTON

for THE BEE

As the afternoon rush of traffic was tapering off, at 6:08 pm on Tuesday, September 10, motorists noticed thick smoke – and some reported seeing flames – coming up both sides of the Grand and MLK Boulevard Viaduct just north of the Ross Island Bridge.

The crew of Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) Engine 21, responding from the foot of Hawthorne Boulevard, reported seeing the blaze as they arrived below the bridge, on S.E. Division Street.

“Firefighters found an unsupervised transient campfire under the viaduct,” PF&R Public Information Officer Lt. Rich Chatman told THE BEE. “The crew used their ‘Salvage Line’, a smaller-diameter hose on a reel, mounted on the engine, to extinguish the flames.”

Looking at the records, Chatman added, “Witnesses reported hearing a small explosion.”

At the scene, it became clear that the fire had burned hot enough to cause the relatively-new concrete abutment under the new viaduct to “spall” (flake off in chunks).

Because Highway 99E is an Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) roadway, their inspectors were called in to inspect the damage.

“Our preliminary estimate of damage, so far, is $5,000 to $7, 000,” ODOT Region 1 Public Information Officer Don Hamilton told THE BEE. “The repair cost could be considerably higher, if the fire damaged the bridge bearings,” Hamilton added. “We’ll take every step necessary to make sure the new bridge remains in safe working order.”