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Smoker ignites 'addiction recovery' house

by: DAVID F. ASHTON - Firefighters look for burning cinders outside the first home that caught fire - known as Oxford House Martins, in the Mt. Scott-Arleta Neighborhood. When the fire started on the evening of November 23, strong winds caused it to spread from a house at 6924 S.E. Martins Street to another house about 15 feet to the west.

Fire crews from Station 11 in Lents and Station 25 in Woodstock arrived almost simultaneously at 10:38 pm.

“Fire crews found the house fully involved, with flames from every visible window and door,” said PF&R spokesman Lt. Damon Simmons. “Wind caused the fire to spread to a neighboring home.”

Because of concern for the need for possible rescues from both burning houses, and because of the close exposure of the second structure to the first, Simmons told THE BEE that firefighters called a “second alarm” at 10:42 pm, bringing additional resources to the scene.

“The crews knocked down the fires in both structures relatively quickly,” Simmons reported, “Especially considering the wind conditions, complicated by a downed power line in the street that created additional challenges for firefighters.”

About 25 minutes after the second alarm, the flames were extinguished and several crews were released, he added.

“This is some kind of ‘halfway house’,” said neighbor Darien Overmeister. “The men who live there keep pretty much to themselves; they’ve been OK neighbors.”

The craftsman-style house, built in 1915, has a private owner.

An online search found that the residence is called “Oxford House Martins” – one a dozen such “self-run, self-supported, addiction-recovery houses” in Inner Southeast Portland, according to the Silver Spring, Maryland, based Oxford House, Inc. organization.

Of the seven residents at the house, the American Red Cross Columbia Chapter helped four men and a boy find shelter; the others moved, at least temporarily, to other Oxford House facilities nearby.

It didn’t take long for PF&R Investigators to identify the source of the blaze, Lt. Simmons later told us.

“An improperly-discarded cigarette was the cause of the fire, and that led to the $60,000 damage estimate,” Simmons said. “Smokers’ fires are preventable. Always discard cigarettes in metal containers with sand in them.”