Evacuation lifted for N.E. Portland, air quality “all clear"

March 13, 2018

Authorities lifted all evacuation orders for N.E. Portland at about 5 p.m. Tuesday, declaring “all clear’’ after repeated monitoring showed air quality had returned to healthy levels.

The removal came shortly after Portland Fire & Rescue announced that the smoldering fire at a salvage yard on Killingsworth has been “extinguished,’’ said Fire Captain Louisa Jones.  

The fire at a scrap yard on North Killingsworth was contained on Tuesday.

The five-alarm fire that started near the intersection of NE 75th Ave. and NE Killingsworth Street on Monday, March 12, caused schools, clinics and streets to close and forced evacuations of neighbors. At least four residences, including a duplex and two single-family homes, were destroyed.

Portland Fire said the cause of the blaze is still under investigation.

Paul Seidel, acting manager for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Northwest Region Clean Up said the agency will coordinate with Multnomah County and the Environmental Protection Agency on next steps.

“We’ll be working with the owner on next steps including possible waste management disposal, soil sampling, assessing water quality and impacts to groundwater quality,” Seidel said. “We won’t know what’s required, until we find out about the site.”

The Environmental Protection Agency had been aggressively monitoring air quality since burning tires and salvaged vehicles sent a black plume of oily smoke over the area. Randy Nattis, EPA on-scene coordinator, said at 2 p.m. air monitoring and all the values were coming back down to typical air quality standards. After going through the community two times in a row, the EPA contacted Multnomah County Director of Environmental Health, Dr. Jae Douglas. 

“We’re grateful for Portland Fire’s effective response and the EPA’s support monitoring air around the site,’’ said Douglas. "They kept the evacuation to a day, and allowed neighbors to safely return home."

The county called for the evacuation of residents closest to the five-alarm fire — those living between 72nd and 76th Ave, from Killingsworth to Alberta streets. More than 145 people and 15 pets stayed at a temporary shelter, opened Monday night by the County and the American Red Cross.

“We know that we had more than 140 people in the shelter last night,” said Douglas. “We are very grateful that the community responded and adhered to the evacuation request.”

The Red Cross is handing out clean up supplies including mops, buckets and other household cleaning items.  

The cleaning kits are available at the evacuation shelter at 1415 SE 122nd Ave. For more tips and information in English and Spanish.