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Investigators confirm fireworks caused deadly Northeast Portland apartment fire

Firefighters stand in front of a burned-out apartment complex on Northeast Weidler Street in Portland on Sunday, July 4.
Firefighters stand in front of a burned-out apartment complex on Northeast Weidler Street in Portland on Sunday, July 4.

Fireworks caused the four-alarm fire that burned down an apartment complex in inner Northeast Portland and killed two people, according to Portland Fire and Rescue Thursday.

The fire broke out early in the morning on July 4, killing Robert William Gremillion and Seth Robert Thompson, and injuring several people, including one who remains hospitalized in critical but stable condition.

Two apartment buildings were destroyed and a third was badly damaged. Portland fire officials declined to offer many details behind their conclusion, emphasizing that their investigation is “open and ongoing.”

“We can’t get into the specifics but all the evidence collected has helped lead to this,” public information officer Terry Foster said in an email to OPB.

Eyewitnesses at the scene told media outlets they heard fireworks early the morning of July 4 before the fire broke out.

Foster offered one further detail about how the fire started, saying the fire “was determined to start in a dumpster in the parking area.”

Portland fire chief Sara Boone commented Friday after the investigators’ findings were released, calling the deadly blaze “a traumatic event for everyone involved.”

“Any loss of life due to fire is horrific and It disheartens me to know that the cause of this tragedy is due to fireworks,” Boone said. “The investigation is still ongoing and I hope that in time the families who have been harmed get the answers they need in order to heal.”

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting