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Fires on Uppertown street in Astoria cause alarm

Four fires outside homes on 38th Street this month, one of which appears to be accidental
By Jack Heffernan

The Daily Astorian

Published on January 16, 2018 3:08PM

Last changed on January 17, 2018 11:07AM

A fire in Uppertown burned a pickup truck.

Mari Inaba

A fire in Uppertown burned a pickup truck.

Investigators are looking into a spate of fires in Uppertown.

Mari Inaba

Investigators are looking into a spate of fires in Uppertown.

A fire caused damage Tuesday to a garage on 38th Street in Astoria but was not suspected by authorities to be connected to cases of suspected arson on the same street.

Colin Murphey/The Daily Astorian

A fire caused damage Tuesday to a garage on 38th Street in Astoria but was not suspected by authorities to be connected to cases of suspected arson on the same street.

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After someone appeared to set fire to an Uppertown home last week, fires at three more residences broke out on the same street in the past few days. One of the fires appears to accidental — not that it matters to concerned residents in the neighborhood.

Emergency personnel responded to a truck on fire in a driveway on 38th Street near Harrison Avenue shortly before 2:30 a.m. Wednesday morning. The fire damaged the front of a red pickup, melting the engine.

“The front was totally demolished,” Interim Police Chief Geoff Spalding said. “It was a large fire.”

Two burn marks also appeared near the front door of the house behind the driveway. No injuries were reported.

Astoria police also responded to a report Saturday morning that a small portion of the front of a house on the street was charred. No one was inside the home at the time.

The first incident took place near midnight on Jan. 6 at the home of Mari Inaba and Ben Crockett. Someone appeared to have set fire to articles of clothing and tried to ignite a gas meter, damaging small areas on the front porch and side of the house.

Crockett, after hearing commotion, got out of bed and noticed flames outside before quickly extinguishing the threat.

“If I had noticed it a minute later, I wouldn’t have been able to stop it,” Crockett said.

No suspects have been identified, Spalding said. All of the fires took place on a section of the street south of the Goonies house and a small Franklin Avenue overpass. Though different portions of the properties were burned, each house sustained small scorch marks near the front door.

“There’s really nothing necessarily to connect the latest one other than it’s a fire,” Spalding said. “From the outside, it certainly looks like a connection, but we can’t know for sure right now.”

Early Tuesday, Astoria fire responded to a blaze inside a garage next door to the scene of the second incident. The inside of the garage was scorched, but the fire appeared to be caused by an electrical malfunction. A Suzuki motorcycle was charging in the garage before the fire started, Astoria Fire Chief Ted Ames said.

The people who live at that home — two adults and two children — were unharmed.

Ames pointed to evidence at the scene — including the direction of the blaze and the fact that the fire started inside the garage — in his determination that the charging motorcycle was the likely cause.

Ames admitted, though, that the coincidence was unlike any he had seen in his decadeslong career.

“Everyone is under the assumption that this is related,” Ames said. “It’s just bad timing.”

Astoria police and fire, the Clatsop County Fire Investigation Team and a representative from the Oregon State Fire Marshal will continue to investigate the fires.

“These homes are old and wooden,” Suzy Sweet, who lives on 38th Street, wrote in a Facebook message to The Daily Astorian. “If it keeps happening something really bad will happen.”

Spalding said he has spoken to residents about forming a neighborhood watch group. The department will also increase patrols in the area, possibly including an extra officer working overtime.

Crockett was testing his new security camera on the front deck Tuesday as officials continued their investigation up the street. He also recalled how he, Inaba and other neighbors awoke just after 2:30 a.m. Tuesday to the sound of the garage fire.

As he and Inaba stood on their front lawn, a neighbor walking his dog greeted them.

“Nothing brings the neighborhood together like arson,” he said.





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