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Early morning fire at Center for Jewish Life is second recent fire at the site in one week, officials note

{img:287541UPDATED: 8:30 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 19

Investigators with Portland Fire & Rescue are still looking into the cause of an early morning fire at Southwest Portland's Chabad Center for Jewish Life Wednesday, Aug. 19.

Flames broke out at the center on Southwest Vermont Street shortly before 3 a.m., KOIN 6 News reported Wednesday morning.

Officials say the fire grew as they worked against the flames, so more units were called in to assist. They say there is extensive damage. It's unclear what caused the blaze, but a battalion chief with PF&R noted this is the second recent fire at the center. An investigation remains underway.

PF&R later noted that the prior fire broke out at the Chabad center just five days prior, on Aug. 14.

The cause of that fire was determined to be an electrical malfunction in an upstairstairs office area.

"While (investigators) do not believe that fire was intentionally set, they have not come to that same conclusion today," a news release from PF&R said of Wednesday's two-alarm fire. The Chabad center had been boarded up and appeared "clearly vacant" fire investigators noted, which could have made the building susceptible to criminal activity.

Rabbi Motti Wilhelm said no one was injured in the fire.

"Thank God no one was hurt. Everybody is shake(n) due to the nature of it," Wilhelm noted Wednesday morning. He declined to provide further details, noting the open investigation, but said the center's mission will carry on.

"Our mission is to spread the love of our creator and the love of our Torah and the love of our fellows. We're committed to rebubbling that."

The rabbi said the center is accepting donations.

This story has been updated with additional information since it first published.

KOIN 6 news contributed to this report.


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