Historic downtown Portland church to be demolished after 3-alarm fire

Published: Jan. 3, 2023 at 6:10 PM PST
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) – An historic church in downtown Portland will be demolished after a three-alarm fire tore through the building Tuesday evening.

Shortly before 5:30 p.m., Portland Fire & Rescue crews were called out to a fire at the Old Portland Korean Church at the corner of Southwest 10th and Southwest Clay. PF&R said there were reports the fire was pushing out of the church and that flames were impinging up against a home to the east of the building.

The three-story wooden 3,000 square-foot church was completed in 1905 and served a Korean congregation during the time of use. It church was unoccupied and not actively in use at the time of the fire.

“We saw huge flames above the church. Like, really huge flames,” Joe Silvey says. “Insane. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Fire crews were unable to get inside quickly as the building has been marked as unsafe, with holes in the floors from previous fires. Crews attacked the fire from the outside and by using ladder trucks.

With the fire growing rapidly a second and third alarm were added to bring in more resources. In total, PF&R said 20 crews responded, placing 80 firefighters at the scene.

Much of the fire was extinguished an hour into the incident, according to PF&R. Crews were able to stop the flames that were impinging on the nearby home.

Different crews rotated throughout the night to operate water flow and watch for any fire growth.

Due to concerns of a potential collapse of the steeple, no vehicle or pedestrian traffic was allowed Wednesday on SW Clay from SW 11th to SW Park. Traffic was also limited on SW 10th between SW Columbia and SW Market. The Portland Streetcar will be servicing their routes using buses as this section will be closed at this time.

On Wednesday, personnel from the City Engineer’s office evaluated the damage and deemed the building unsafe. It was approved for demolition.

PF&R said the removal project was scheduled to begin Thursday, Jan. 5 but has been delayed. Travel in the area will be restricted until the building is removed.

There were no injuries reported due to the fire.

The cause of the fire has not yet been determined. PF&R said investigators will resume the investigation Wednesday morning.