HAPPY VALLEY, Ore. — Two residential buildings in Happy Valley remained under evacuation Saturday evening after a fire broke out early that morning at a nearby commercial building. Clackamas County officials are warning residents in the area of ​​the possible presence of asbestos in the ash and debris scattered by the fire.

The county issued a shelter-in-place advisory for the surrounding area as fire crews battled the blaze Saturday morning, due to concerns about asbestos in the wreckage. The fire was under control by mid-morning, and fire officials told KGW around 1:30 p.m. that the alert had been lifted, although an evacuation order remained in place for the two buildings in the Rosewood Station apartment complex.

Tenants of those evicted apartments told KGW that their throats were sore and there was a toxic odor in their apartments. County staff were working to make sure residents had somewhere to go, according to a news release Saturday evening from the county, and opened an emergency shelter at Gregory Forum at Clackamas Community College, 19600 Molalla Road. Say how long the buildings will need to remain empty.

The county said ash and debris may be present on surrounding streets and private property, extending up to a mile in some directions, and the ash likely contains hazardous materials — specifically asbestos. The county is working to clean up the streets, and said residents are not advised to attempt to clean up any debris themselves. The county set up a web page about the fire and said residents can also call 211 for more information.

Clackamas Fire and Portland Fire crews were called to 8855 SE Otty Rd at approximately 3:30 a.m. to fight a third alarm fire. According to Clackamas Fire, firefighters had to fight the fire from the outside of the buildings due to the threat of a partial wall collapse.

No injuries were reported from the fire, but Clackamas County announced Saturday evening that a person was found dead inside one of the apartment units during an evacuation. The state medical examiner’s office concluded that the death occurred before the fire broke out and was unrelated to the accident, the county said.
The commercial structure where the fire occurred was a former company building that is no longer occupied, and Clackamas County said in a news release late Saturday morning that the building is now owned by the Clackamas County Development Agency, Miles Fiberglass & Composites wrote on Facebook.

The county already had a contract in place to demolish the structure, and work was expected to begin in the next few weeks, according to the news release. Recent tests found asbestos in building materials, and the contract was in the process of being amended to take into account proper disposal, the county said.

Neighbors said they often saw people entering and exiting the abandoned building. Fires and other accidents were common in the building.

“A few days ago there were five or six police cars parked there,” said Sean Patrick, a neighbor.

Clackamas Fire Department officials said they responded to a fire last week at the same location.

The cause of Saturday’s fire remains under investigation.

An alert was sent out Saturday morning to residents and businesses within the scope of the shelter in place order. Some residents and business owners said they did not receive the payment alert. Other tenants near the building said they already had it. Clackamas Fire officials said anyone who did not receive the notice should sign up for notifications on the county website.

Asbestos is a natural mineral that was widely used in building materials until it was discovered that long-term exposure can cause cancer and lung problems. It is still found in many ancient structures. Ash and debris suspected of containing asbestos should not be swept, vacuumed, or power washed due to the risk of spreading asbestos into the air during this process.

Residents are not encouraged to clean it themselves, but if anyone chooses to do so, they should gently soak the debris with a spray bottle or garden hose, pick it up and place it in a plastic trash bag, then seal it inside. And a second bag, according to information contained in the county’s press release. People cleaning up debris should wear their best face mask, preferably an N95, wear disposable gloves and wash their hands, arms and clothing afterward.

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.

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