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A dispute in a hidden transient camp let to a fire that damanged an adjacent business in north Westmoreland

DAVID F. ASHTON - On S.E. Mitchell Street, looking west from 17th Avenue with the Watershed Building in the background, Westmoreland Fire Station 20 firefighters wet down the area where a reported argument in a transient camp led to the side of the adjacent occupied fitness center catching fire. A fire that broke out on September 22 at 12:40 p.m., along the west wall of "Rivet Athletic Club" on S.E. Mitchell Street in Westmoreland brought Portland Fire & Rescue firefighters to the scene.

It took a few moments for them to actually find the fire; callers to the 9-1-1 Center gave dispatchers differing locations, including behind the "The Watershed Building" on S.E. Milwaukie Boulevard.

Fire crews said they "followed the smoke" – which quickly flared up into flames – and located the blaze at the base of the precipitous grade on the north side of Mitchell Street.

The fire broke out in a small homeless encampment, tucked near the bottom of the steep incline. In this hidden encampment, individuals were heard arguing loudly before the fire began, a witness told firefighters at the scene.

The blaze torched the siding on the wall of the building, exposing wall studs and installation, and burned camping debris.

Westmoreland Fire Station 20's crew remained at the scene after other engines had departed, spraying down the area from overhead, using "Class A Foam" to saturate the burn vicinity and to make sure all embers were extinguished.

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