Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) fire investigators, working with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), have made a determination regarding the fire origin and cause of the Marysville Elementary School fire. The fire, which occurred on November 10, 2009, caused heavy damage to the 87-year-old school, located at 7733 SE Raymond Street in Portland, Oregon.
The investigation has identified the Discovery Zone, formerly the girls’ gym, as the room of fire origin. The fire was caused by the introduction of an unknown, competent ignition source to combustible materials in the Discovery Zone. It has not yet been determined whether the ignition was accidental or intentional.
A recent examination of electrical items confirmed the initial conclusions of the investigators at the fire scene that the fire was not caused by an electrical source.
On November 10, 2009, smoke from a fully developed Discovery Zone fire flowed into the east hallway, activating a smoke detector causing the school’s fire alarm to sound. A majority of the east classrooms were vacant at that time for the first lunch period.
The staff and students successfully evacuated the school. There were commendable and appropriate initiatives by staff to ensure that the school had been evacuated and that everyone was safe.
A full response from PF&R’s Fire Investigation Unit was called. Recognizing the magnitude of the fire, PF&R contacted ATF for additional resources. PF&R and ATF are two of several agencies that participate and function as the Metro Fire Investigation Team.
Investigators remained on scene for five days conducting interviews and processing the fire scene. The systematic scene examination also evaluated building construction, contents, and building systems. This information was used to conduct a “fire dynamics” analysis. Portland Public Schools facilities staff was of great assistance, providing investigators with historic building systems and remodel information.
The investigation will remain open, allowing investigators to process new information as it becomes available.
April 13, 2010