Investigators blame spontaneous combustion for a fire in Astoria that displaced two families Saturday night.

The fire at 1129 Niagara Ave., was quickly brought under control, but the investigation suddenly became more complicated with the discovery of several thousand rounds of ammunition, reloading supplies and PVC piping in the apartment where the fire originated.

The materials were consistent with the construction of a pipe bomb or the construction of homemade, watertight caches. 

The Oregon State Police Arson and Explosives unit was called out to help police and firefighters with the investigation. But the apartment’s resident, Roderick Kennedy, 70, told police he had been using the PVC piping to make watertight caches to store documents, medications and other items — he wasn’t using it to make bombs.

Police did not find anything illegal in Kennedy’s apartment. Some of the ammunition and reloading supplies were turned over to the OSP Arson and Explosives unit for disposal because of risk associated with fire and water damage to the materials. 

Investigators believe the fire started when some old and/or damaged smokeless powder combusted.

Kennedy’s apartment and its contents suffered fire and smoke damage. The American Red Cross was able to arrange for temporary housing for Kennedy and his neighbors that night.

The fire was reported just before 9 p.m. when one of the tenants of the duplex heard a loud noise and discovered smoke coming from Kennedy’s apartment.

By the time firefighters arrived, smoke was coming from the eaves of the building.

Twenty-one fire personnel and four engines responded to the fire. Community Emergency Response Team members, Medix Ambulance personnel, Astoria police officers, Clatsop County Sheriff’s Office deputies and Astoria Port Security were also on hand. 


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