Investigation begins in 5-alarm fire at vacant Hayden Island hotel

Investigation begins in 5-alarm fire at vacant Hayden Island hotel »Play Video
Photo Courtesy: Portland Fire and Rescue

PORTLAND, Ore. – Firefighters battled a 5-alarm fire at a vacant hotel on Hayden Island early Sunday morning.

Crews responded to the fire just before 3 a.m., firefighters said. By 4:30 a.m., the fire had grown to five alarms, prompting more than 150 firefighters to converge on the old hotel.

Michael Downing lives near the scene of the fire.

"You drive across the bridge, you look back, and the whole riverside already engulfed in flames where it's basically just timbers," he said. "It looks like a fire you would see in the woods."

Downing woke up to the glow outside of his bedroom window.

"I really had to take a double take at it, like, 'Am I really seeing this or am I still sleeping?'" he said.

No one was hurt because of the fire. The building was the former Thunderbird Hotel. It had been vacant since 2005 and was up for sale.

"It's been dilapidated for a really long time," said Thuy Nguyen, who works nearby. "I've worked here for four years and it's just been sitting there."

The complex was used for storage. The old furniture and mattresses inside added significant fuel to the fire, according to Portland Fire and Rescue spokesman Michael Silva.

With each additional alarm, more resources were called to the scene to fight the fire.

"Not in the last 3 or 4 years have I seen a fire go to a fifth alarm," Silva said.

More than 200 fire crew members fought the fire. In addition to at least 25 fire engines and trucks that responded, fire boats attacked the massive fire from the Columbia River.

The building had a sprinkler system, but it was turned off because the building hadn't been used in seven years. However, a 24-hour security agency patrols the area because the fire marshal demanded that if a working sprinkler system was not in place, a security team had to patrol the area.

Firefighters said they are confident no one was inside the building during the fire.

The Washington State Department of Transportation said they had to close the Interstate 5 Bridge temporarily because chunks of burning debris were landing on the road.

The fire was declared under control by 7 a.m., Silva said.

It's unclear how the fire started, but officials have estimated the fire caused approximately $5 million in damages.

"We have several fire investigators on scene," said Silva. "This could go into tomorrow."

While fire investigators hope to ramp up their investigation into the origins of the fire on Monday, firefighters were still on the scene Sunday night trying to put out the smoldering hot spots.

KATU's Dan Cassuto contributed to this story.