Police are still searching for a suspect accused of setting a Clackamas County homeless center on fire Monday morning.
Firefighters quickly knocked out the flames, and while the future of the building is uncertain, volunteers at the Clackamas Service Center are already getting some help to keep serving the needy.
Volunteer Kathy Maras could only watch as crews fought to save a building located in the 8900 block of Southeast 82nd Avenue.
“I was just heartsick,” Maras said. “I was thinking about all the people this center helps.”
CSC Executive Director Debra Mason told FOX 12 the facility saw a fair amount of damage.
“They’ve had to use a lot of water, there’s a lot of smoke,” she explained.
The back of the building went up in flames Monday morning. Nobody was hurt, and the facility was already closed for the Independence Day holiday.
Still, volunteers didn’t imagine they wouldn’t reopen Wednesday with the services that have become a lifeline for so many in the community
“A lot of people that have just fallen on hard times. A lot of people can’t make ends meet,” Maras said. “People just need a place where they can go and feel cared for.”
“We have about 600 families a month who come to us for groceries,” Mason added. “So that’s where my heart is right now.”
For decades, the Clackamas Service Center has been a haven, offering hot meals, clothing, showers and even some basic medical care, making it a one-stop shop.
Now, though, Mason said it faces an uncertain future.
“(We’ll) try to figure out how to repair the building, but then, how can we make referrals? How can we get the word out about other places where people can be served?” she worried.
Maras hopes to be back at the facility volunteering again soon and has a feeling that “something good will come out of this.”
She saw that feeling take shape shortly thereafter as firefighters become heroes twice in one day by forming a human chain to save thousands of pounds of perishable food being stored at the facility.
“We respond to the service center on a regular basis,” Clackamas Fire spokesperson Nate Hon said. “We know the volunteers that work here. They put in tons of hours, so this is a benefit not only to the service center but to the community.”
The Oregon State Police are helping the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office investigate the fire, and so far, there are no suspects.
Anyone with information that could help solve this case is asked to give the sheriff’s office a call. For more information on the Clackamas Service Center, visit the organization's website at CSCOregon.org.
Copyright 2017 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.