Officials expand evacuation area after scrap yard fire, thousands affected

Tires burn at a Northeast Portland scrap yard Monday. The smoke from the fire forced thousands of people to evacuate because of the poor air quality. (Photo: Chopper 2/KATU)

After a massive fire at a Northeast Portland scrap yard early Monday sent plumes of toxic smoke into the air, fire officials late Monday night expanded the areas that needed to be evacuated.

Residents living in an area bordered from Northeast 60th to East 76th and Northeast Columbia and Northeast Alberta need to immediately leave the area, officials said.

The new evacuation orders went into effect after air-quality monitors picked up unhealthy levels of fine particulate west of the scrap yard. The wind blew the smoke in that direction all day.

Portland Fire & Rescue spokeswoman Louisa Jones said during a Monday night news conference that the evacuation affects between 2,000 and 4,000 people. Police officers are going door to door to let people know, and calls are going out through the 911 system to affected residents.

The Red Cross is setting up a new shelter for evacuees. It is at the Department of Community Justice at 1415 S.E. 122nd Avenue in Portland. Animal services will be provided. Residents can also get more information at

People who need shelter can call 211, and those who need transportation to it can call 503-823-2323.

Jones said the Environmental Protection Agency is at the scene of the fire and will continue to monitor the air overnight.

The smoke can cause health problems for people, especially for the young, the elderly and those with heart and lung conditions.

"This is worse than a forest fire," said Dr. Paul Lewis of Multnomah County Health. "This is cars, interiors of cars, and tires."

He added that each tire has two gallons of petroleum in it as well as many other chemicals.

"This (air) is hazardous in ways that we can't really measure right now," he said.

Jones said it was unfortunate that officials had to make the late night evacuation call, but she said it was the right thing to do.

"We wanted to be absolutely sure that those test results we had were what we thought they were," she said. "We weren't going to call this out if we weren't quite sure about it."

The fire, in the area of Northeast 75th Avenue and Killingsworth, destroyed a duplex and two small homes.

Police said 16 cats died in the fire. At least 10 dogs from a nearby rescue were saved.

Fire crews worked Monday night to protect a structure that's close to the fire but flare-ups aren't expected overnight.

Fire investigators won't be able to go into the site until at least Tuesday. Only then will they be able to look for what started the fire.

Fire crews from Gresham, Vancouver and even the Port of Portland came to help.

Officials held a news conference late Monday night:

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