Villebois fire investigation concludes fire was deliberately ignited
This article has been updated from its original version
Officers investigating the fire that destroyed a condominium complex and nearby homes in the Villebois community March 31 have concluded the fire was ignited under "incendiary" circumstances, according to a Clackamas County Sheriff's Office news release.
According to the National Wildfire Coordinating Group, that means the fire was "deliberately ignited under circumstances in which the person knows that the fire should not be ignited" but doesn't necessarily meet the legal definition of arson.
"There wasn't an electric source to the site, there wasn't a gas source to the site, so they were able to rule out that it was some of the other possibilities of what it could have been," said Clackamas County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Marcus Mendoza.
Investigators hadn't determined whether the fire was caused by arson, meaning a person intentionally damaged the protected property of another or recklessly placed another person in danger of physical injury, among other definitions.
"They will need to develop the intent based off of interviews and evidence," Mendoza said. "Investigators have not provided information about intent, therefore it hasn't been determined to be an arson."
Last week, investigators found a possible witness who had recorded the fire and were reviewing evidence from the recordings. A news release also stated that the fire had caused $10 million in damages.
"You look at the amount of vehicles damaged, homes, structures. It (the $10 million figure) was a loose assessment of a combination of those things," said Wilsonville Police Chief Rob Wurpes.
So far, Mendoza said the investigation has included canvassing the neighborhood, examining the site and evidence using forensics and other methods, and interviewing witnesses. He said the investigation will continue along a similar trajectory despite the revelation.
"Investigators are working hard to identify witnesses, identify evidence, a suspect, if it was in fact arson, determine whether it was a criminal act or another act, and if it was determined it was a criminal act, they will proceed toward identifying a suspect and prosecution," Mendoza said.
To provide a tip to investigators, call 503-723-4949.