Asbestos Warning Following Large Fire Near Parkrose High School.

Portland, Ore. — The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is collaborating with the Oregon Health Authority, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Portland Bureau of Emergency Management, Multnomah County, and other Portland agencies to investigate the dissemination of debris and ash in the Parkrose neighborhood of Northeast Portland. The contamination resulted from a significant fire that occurred on July 19, raising concerns about the public health of residents, workers, and visitors in the vicinity.

Evidence of the fire at a vacant Kmart building located at 12350 NE Sandy Blvd. was found in nearby yards and on Parkrose School District property, including charred pieces and heavy dust. Debris discovered at Luuwit View Park has been tested and confirmed to contain asbestos.

As a precautionary measure, all planned City of Portland activities in the park have been canceled for the following day, and the School District has advised administrators to keep all activities indoors. The city of Portland has contracted the Professional Minority Group to commence cleanup operations at the park, with work starting this afternoon.

On July 21, DEQ will conduct an area assessment to gain a better understanding of the extent of contamination and determine the subsequent steps in the cleanup process.

In the interim, the public is urged to take measures to safeguard themselves from potential hazards associated with the contaminated material. Safety guidelines include:

  • Avoiding areas with ash or debris if possible.
  • Refraining from contact with any debris suspected of containing asbestos, as it crumbles easily into inhalable fibers.
  • Keeping children and pets away from ash and debris.
  • Not engaging in grass mowing or gardening in areas that may have been exposed to the contamination.
  • Gently soaking ash and debris with water to prevent it from becoming airborne, avoiding power washing.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral often present at low levels in some soils and historically used in building materials. Long-term exposure to asbestos has been linked to health issues, including cancer and lung-related problems. However, most individuals experience limited exposure to asbestos throughout their lives, with few health implications.

A joint incident command has been established, comprising DEQ, Oregon Health Authority, Portland Bureau of Emergency Management, Multnomah County Health Department, Portland Bureau of Environmental Services, and the Parkrose School District.