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Lawsuit claims city was negligent in homeless camp fire
A North Portland attorney whose North Kerby Avenue house was damaged by a December 2016 fire at a nearby homeless camp is suing the city and homeless advocates who supported the camp.
Raylynna Peterson, who operates a legal practice from her house just a few blocks from Legacy Emanuel Medical Center, is asking Multnomah County Circuit Court to award her at least $541,000 after the homeless camp fire and propane tank explosions damaged her house, caused the death of her dog and nearly injured her two daughters.
In addition to the city of Portland, Peterson is suing homeless advocate Steven Kimes of the Anawim Bethel Christian Fellowship and the nonprofit Houseless Community Builders and Ree Campbell Kaarhus of the nonprofit Boots on the Ground PDX. The city does not comment on litigation. Kaarhus declined to comment. Kimes has not commented on the lawsuit. No court date has been set for the case.
The homeless camp near Peterson's house grew to several dozen people after campers were forced to leave the nearby Hazelnut Grove encampment on a hillside near North Greeley and Interstate avenues. When police cleared the site, many people moved to city-owned property near North Kerby Avenue and formed the Forgotten Realms camp.
According to Peterson's 17-page lawsuit filed Wednesday, Dec. 5, between 40 and 60 people were at the Forgotten Realms camp.
The fire began at about 6:30 a.m. Dec. 5, 2016, in the Forgotten Realms homeless camp next to the Peterson house. Several propane tanks exploded, damaging structures in the camp. Peterson and her daughters escaped her burning house in their bare feet during the cold early morning as the fire raged barely seven feet from their property.
According to their lawsuit, Peterson was "jolted awake when the first propane tank exploded." She called 911, thinking it was a gunshot and "jumped out of bed to check on her children." Peterson heard pounding on her front door, and found a person shouting, "Get out! Your house is on fire!"
As she ran to get her daughters to safety, Peterson's lawsuit claims her daughter's "bedroom window exploded with a loud boom. A thick sheet of plastic insulation attached to the window frame is the only thing that saved Peterson's child from being struck by ying shards of glass."
Peterson's lawsuit claims the city and the nonprofits that supported the homeless camp were negligent and failed to follow city health and safety regulations.
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