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Firefighters have been called to Northeast Portland eatery three times in five years.

COURTESY PJOTO: KOIN 6 NEWS - Firefighters respond to the Northeast Portland eater on Satruday, Aug. 13.For the third time in five years, fire has damaged Reo's Ribs in Northeast Portland.

Around 2 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 13, a fire started near the door of the eatery at 4211 N.E. Sandy Blvd. and extended inside. Portland Fire & Rescue crews were able to quickly extinguish the fire and no one was hurt.

The smoke woke people sleeping in the area, like Walter Wing.

"About 1 o'clock in the morning I smelled smoke. I was sleeping outside in the doorway," Wing told KOIN 6 News. "So I panicked, got up and there was kind of a sketchy character in the doorway. And he had a cardboard bonfire going on."

The exact cause of the fire is undetermined, but arson investigators were called to the scene.

Owner Myra Girod said this latest fire is a devastating blow but she's thankful for the loyal support of Reo's customers.

Girod's longtime friend and damage consultant Lashaun Caver said she called with the news. And he was shocked.

"She called me up and I wasn't sure, but when she said 'fire' I couldn't believe it. I was like, 'Are you kidding me? No, not again!' Here we are again," Caver said. "This is not helping them. Every time they get on their feet they get torn back down. It almost makes me feel like someone is doing it on purpose."

Employee Mark Hardy, Sr., who was also a friend of the late owner Reo Varnado, said this pattern of fires has been emotionally and financially draining for the family business.

"It's devastating, and after it happens so many times you would think you become numb, but it's just reliving the wounds, like pulling the scab over," Hardy said. "And now we have to heal again. And we're trying to feed the community."

Hardy said Reo's just reopened four months ago from the previous damage. And those closest to Varnado are still grieving his death.

Varnado, the uncle of Snoop Dogg, died in January 2022.

"He would give you the shirt off his back. He had a laugh that was just … Santa Claus didn't have a laugh this good!" he told KOIN 6 News. "His heart was just of gold and I hate to see, even after his passing, that someone would dishonor him in this way."

The business will be closed indefinitely as they work to investigate the scope of the damage and repair what has been lost. But those who spoke with KOIN 6 News said they are determined to rebuild and are grateful for the support of their community.

Previous fires at Reo's Ribs

On Nov. 23, 2020, arson caused a fire that significantly damaged the Northeast Portland restaurant. A 38-year-old woman was arrested about a month after the fire. She was later found unfit to stand trial after a psychological evaluation in May 2021.

Reo's was destroyed in other fire back in 2017 and reopened after rebuilding. That fire was determined to be accidental, but owner Reo Varnado said at the time he did not believe that.

At the time of the first fire in 2017, Reo was in Los Angeles taping television segments with Martha Stewart when the fire destroyed his restaurant.

"You put your whole heart and soul into something that you like in life, that you love, and people try to come and take it away from you," Varnado said in a statement at that time.

KOIN 6 News is a news partner of the Portland Tribune.

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