Oregon City police: Homeless woman dies in Abernethy Park fire
Authorities are investigating a case of a homeless woman who died on Nov. 8 after a fire broke out near her encampment in Abernethy Creek Park in Oregon City.
Oregon City Police Captain Shaun Davis said that an officer who was on patrol at 2:07 a.m. first reported the fire near the Abernethy Bridge and the 16th/Washington streets intersection. When the officer found the fire, it had already surrounded several trees in the park.
"It was big enough that our officer wasn't able to put it out with a fire extinguisher, which is what we carry with us in our patrol cars," Davis said.
Clackamas firefighters responded to extinguish the fire. After putting the fire out, the fire personnel found 45-year-old Rachael Renee Edwards dead inside a tent, Davis said. Authorities believe that the fire originated from a homeless encampment on the hillside.
"Right now it's a tragic death, and we believe it was an accident, but we still have to investigate this fully," Davis said.
It's not unusual for OCPD officers to be the first to witness fires breaking out and other types of potential crimes occurring. In 2010, OCPD moved from eight to 10-hour shifts, in an effort to stop more crimes before they happen. The schedule change allowed for an overlap between the graveyard and swing shifts, enabling plain-clothes officers in undercover cars to target problem areas.
"We're out and about patrolling the city and doing our job, so we're often seeing incidents before they get reported to us," Davis said.
OCPD officers Spencer Rohde and Jon Neece witnessed the May 13, 2016, house fire at 709 10th St. The suspect who was angry about being recently evicted from the residence, Jeremiah Ryan Pierce, 34, pleaded guilty to arson in September 2016 and was sentenced to 30 months in prison.
OCPD is conducting the investigation into Wednesday's fire in partnership with the Clackamas Fire District and the Clackamas County Medical Examiner's Office.