Massive Fire Destroys Former Northeast Portland K-Mart Store

Portland, Ore – Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) responded to a massive 4-alarm fire in the Argay Terrace Neighborhood early this morning. The fire broke out at approximately 6:30 AM in a former K-Mart building located at the intersection of NE 122nd and Sandy Blvd, emitting significant smoke and flames.

Photo: Portland Fire & Rescue

In light of the intensity and rapid spread of the fire, a second alarm response was immediately requested. Concerns over the fire’s potential to extend into the neighborhood led to a fourth alarm being sounded. However, it was later confirmed that the fire did not spread beyond the vacant structure, and no spot fires were reported. Fortunately, there were no injuries resulting from the incident.

The proximity of the building to PF&R’s training yard allowed for a quick response, with the second alarm being requested even before some of the first alarm units had departed from their stations. The first arriving chief, accompanied by an engine and truck, took charge of the situation and coordinated the efforts of nine additional emergency vehicles and 36 firefighters. Their tactical plan involved establishing a strong water supply and implementing a defensive attack strategy utilizing large diameter hand lines and aerial master streams from ladder trucks.

The building, which has remained vacant for an extended period, has frequently been used for unauthorized shelter. In an attempt to deter such activities, the property

Photo: Portland Fire & Rescue

owners had fortified the premises with an 8-foot tall cyclone fence and placed cement blocks and jersey barriers along NE 122nd to restrict access to the parking lot. This fortification posed initial challenges for PF&R, but firefighters managed to cut through locks and use a winch to move the barriers, gaining access to the parking lot and positioning themselves for the defensive fire attack.

Pre-planning discussions had provided PF&R with knowledge of the closest fire hydrant locations near the building. However, the limited number of hydrants in the vicinity necessitated proactive measures. Firefighters formed a water supply group to locate and access the best hydrants in the surrounding area. In one instance, an engine connected to a hydrant and extended the hose through the cyclone fencing to another fire engine on the opposite side, enabling the flow of water to the aerial master stream on the truck.

As a precautionary measure, the third and fourth alarm assignments were called in, bringing the total number of personnel on scene to nearly 100. This ensured sufficient workforce to address any spot fires that might have been caused by embers carried aloft by the fire and smoke column. Once the flames were effectively subdued, crews not assigned to immediate duties were released to return to their stations.

To safeguard residents in the area, a reverse 911 call was initiated, reaching out to approximately 50,000 phone numbers. The call advised residents to shelter in place and close windows to prevent smoke inhalation and potential respiratory distress. When the smoke column dissipated significantly, the same phone numbers received an alert lifting the shelter in place recommendation.

Implementing fire watch style tactics, PF&R maintained a presence at the scene for two hours following the initial dispatch. Throughout the day, companies remained on site operating the aerial master streams, ensuring the fire did not reignite and spread within the vacant 120,000 square foot building. No firefighter injuries were reported, and the cause of the fire is currently under investigation. Individuals with information regarding the incident are urged to contact the Portland Fire Arson Hotline at (503) 823-FIRE (3473).