Southeast Portland

Firefighters investigating SUV fire in SE Portland neighborhood

Firefighters investigating SUV fire in SE Portland neighborhood »Play Video
Fire investigators are looking into what caused this SUV to burst into flames early Sunday morning. (KATU photo)

PORTLAND, Ore. – Firefighters are investigating a fire that burned an SUV early Sunday morning in a Southeast Portland neighborhood.

It happened near Southeast 97th Avenue and Steele Street.

Rachel Jamison said she woke up to the sound of her car alarm. Then she saw the glow.

"Flames shooting up," she said. "Then it was 'oh my gosh, the car's on fire! Call 911!'"

The flames melted the side of her duplex. No one was hurt.

"[We] just tried to grab our shoes, and pants and get out of the house," said Jamison.

When she looked at her burned SUV later, she said it looked like someone was trying to siphon gas.

"They had taken my gas cap off," Jamison said. "There was gas poured around. I'm feeling a little violated. It was definitely a scary experience."

Neighbors said they smelled gas and saw someone run away when the fire started. Marc Wheeler said he heard the car alarm at around 5:15 a.m.

“I heard a loud explosion,” he said. “So I ran outside. I came out and I see a Jeep Cherokee on fire.”

Wheeler said he thought someone was trying to take gasoline out of his neighbor’s SUV. He said that’s been a problem in the neighborhood.

Angel Marks said when her mother came to her house she found a curtain soaked in gasoline on her front porch after the fire.

“We don’t know if the people were going to light the thing on fire or not,” she said. “We don’t have any enemies. We don’t know who would have done this.

“They messed with my husband’s car. I don’t know if they were trying to steal gas or start his truck on fire.”

Firefighters found a gas can near the burned SUV.

Graz Dalvarez said whoever started the fire used a hose and some tools from his back yard.

“I saw a guy running down the street down there,” said Dalvarez, who lives nearby. “That’s what I told the police. That guy looked suspicious.”