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September 2018 -- Vol. 113, No. 1
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Memories of THE BEE's first 100 years!
In 2006, THE BEE celebrated its centennial of serving Southeast Portland!  A special four-page retrospective of Inner Southeast Portland's century, written by Eileen Fitzsimons, and drawn from the pages of THE BEE over the previous 100 years, appeared in our September, 2006, issue.
Click here to read this special retrospective!


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Flavel Street, fire, fireworks, two alarm, houses burned, Brentwood Darlington, Southeast Portland, Oregon
When illegal fireworks sparked a grass fire between two closely-spaced houses, falling debris from the house on the right ruptured a natural gas line, shooting fire up into the eaves, and setting the house on the left ablaze. The “Danger” tape below marks the downed power line. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Illegal fireworks blamed for burning two homes


What became a conflagration began on Saturday evening, August 11, when several Brentwood-Darlington neighbors called the 9-1-1 Center complaining about loud fireworks going off on S.E. Flavel Street, west of 60th Avenue.

After yet another loud explosion, the tall dry grass and weeds between two narrowly-spaced homes at 5818 and 5823 Flavel caught fire – dispatching Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) crews to the area at 10:16 p.m.

Woodstock Fire Station 25’s Engine Company was first to arrive, and reported that the side of the westerly home was showing smoke and fire. And before long, parts of both homes were ablaze. A PF&R Battalion Chief called for a “second alarm” to bring more firefighters to the scene, including a mutual-aid engine from Clackamas Fire District #1.

“There was heavy fire damage to the first floor of the westerly house,” PF&R Public Information Officer Lt. Rich Chatman told THE BEE. “Material fell from that structure’s roof, which hit and ruptured a natural gas meter line, which soon erupted in flames – shooting a good sized ball of fire up between the houses.

“The siding on the easterly house did its job, and didn’t catch fire; but that torch of fire from the gas meter set the eaves of the two-story residence on fire, igniting the attic space and second story rooms of that house.”

Complicating the firefight, another jet of flames burned through an electrical service line, causing it to drop into the street, still “live”.

However, by 10:40 p.m., firefighters had extinguished the fire at both houses, but spent several more hours at the scene putting out hot spots.

“There were no reported injuries in this incident,” Chatman reported, confirming that, “A PF&R Arson Investigator believes the cause of this fire was illegal fireworks,” Those who shot off the illegal fireworks are being sought to face charges.

Disaster responders with the American Red Cross Cascades Region provided aid to two adults and four children who’d been displaced by the fires.

SMILE, Sellwood Moreland Improvement League, SMILE Station, vandals, air conditioning, heat wave, Southeast Portland, Oregon
HVAC technician Ray Hughes was discouraged about the extensive damage vandals did to the air conditioning unit at historic Oaks Pioneer Church, on S.E. Spokane Street at Grand, which SMILE manages. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Vandals damage SMILE air conditioners in heat wave


As July ended and August began, in the height of the Portland heat wave, vandals damaged the air conditioning unit outside SMILE Station on 13th Avenue in Sellwood, and similarly damaged – and perhaps destroyed – the A/C unit behind the Oaks Pioneer Church, blocks away on S.E. Spokane Street, which SMILE also manages and books.

SMILE is the acronym for the Sellwood-Moreland Improvement League, the oldest neighborhood association in the city, and the only one of Portland’s 95 that owns its own building.

“This occurred sometime between July 31 and August 1,” confirmed Central Precinct Neighborhood Response Team A/Sgt. Shaun Sahli. “No suspects are listed in the report.”

Those who met in SMILE Station starting August 1st had reported that the air conditioning system wasn’t functioning. A look outside showed why: The copper refrigerant tubing had been snipped at the compressor, all the way up the wall – perhaps with bolt cutters – and removed.

Then, a custodian who started up the air conditioning system at Oaks Pioneer Church, near Sellwood Riverfront Park, reported seeing thick black smoke billowing from its compressor unit. There, a three-foot length of copper refrigerant tubing had been snipped and removed on the same night.

At first, SMILE Station and Church Manager Lorraine Fyre wondered if the copper might have been stolen to be sold at a recycling center. But, according to Portland Iron & Metal, Inc., they only pay about $2.30 per pound for top-quality copper – making this, at best, a $6 criminal caper. That raised the possibility of malicious vandalism.

“We bid out the repair job at the SMILE Station, and had it repaired in about a week,” Fyre told THE BEE. “But, the repair cost about $2,000, which is equivalent to the cost of four of our annual Easter Egg Hunts.”

SMILE Station, SMILE, Sellwood, Portland, Oregon
At SMILE Station, at S.E. 13th and Tenino, vandals snipped copper refrigerant tubing at the air conditioning unit, and ripped it off the wall. Both the Station and Oaks Pioneer Church were vandalized the same night, although they are blocks apart. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

The situation at Oaks Pioneer Church was critical, because of upcoming weddings that had been booked there. Since Portland Parks & Recreation pays for HVAC maintenance in the church, a City of Portland repairman tried unsuccessfully to make a rapid repair.

“After removing the cover of the outdoor compressor unit, the repair person said he found many syringes and hypodermic needles had been stuck into the vents, along with several handfuls of dirt dumped into the top,” Fyre remarked.

A week later, at the church, HVAC serviceman Ray Hughes looked discouraged while he worked on the system. Between the times he’d worked on the system over the previous few days, more needles kept appearing inside – and it looked to him as if someone had tried to pry needles out to reuse them.

Due to the extensive damage to the system, it appeared likely that the church’s A/C system would have to be totally replaced.

“The area behind the church is lighted; and Portland Police officers have vowed to step up patrols in the area,” said Fyre. “We’re asking neighbors to keep an eye out for activity behind the church – but please report suspicious activity to the police, and do not confront them.”

Fyre brought in electric fans for the several weddings and events at the church in early August. “We explained that the air conditioning system was vandalized; all of the people were very understanding, and accepting of the situation.”

SMILE President Joel Leib commented to THE BEE, “It is far less than ideal to suddenly have no air conditioning for the weddings, business meetings, and other gatherings scheduled for both locations, right in the middle of an unusually hot summer.

“We truly appreciate that everyone involved has been so understanding about our situation. While unfortunate, this will have no lasting impact on any services our neighborhood association provides in the future.”

Oaks Bottom Lagoon rehab, Sellwood, Southeast Portlland, Oregon
LKE Corporation President and Lead Ecologist Kim Erion points to the ancient Oregon Electric Railway Trolley pilings that had been unearthed while digging the cut to remove the old Oaks Bottom culvert. The white piping system removes and recycles water in the work area. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Digging in, at the Oaks Bottom rehab project


Major work was underway in August at the “Oaks Bottom Tidal Restoration Project”, designed to improve the movement, distribution, and quality of water in the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge and lagoon, and to enhance the habitat for protected wildlife species, including amphibians, reptiles, birds, bats, and salmon.

The most dramatic change is that the dike between the Oaks Bottom and the Willamette River – upon which both the Springwater Trail and the Oregon Pacific Railroad tracks rest – has now been excavated to below water level, removing about 4,000 cubic yards of rock and soil.

This project involves the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and “the Oaks Bottom Habitat Enhancement Project” of the City of Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services, in association with Portland Parks and Recreation.

A contractor on the project is LKE Corporation, whose President and Lead Ecologist Kim Erion pointed out to THE BEE where the new excavation had revealed the remains of ancient Oregon Electric Railway Trolley pilings, long buried under the weir.

“We’ve excavated the culvert out of the cut, and much of the material removed isn’t suitable for fill material, and so is being taken away from the site by Richard Samuel’s Oregon Pacific Railroad, to an area where can be safely disposed of,” Erion remarked at the site on August 12.

She pointed out vertical pipes around the perimeter of the cut, and explained that they are all part of their de-watering system. “The white pipes remove water pumped out of the work area, into a pond holding area, where some of the sediments can settle out.

“Then, that water is pumped into the new channel, and from there, it’s pumped to water the upper areas of the natural area. So, all the water coming out of the construction site is being recycled and naturally filtered.”

But, this project goes far beyond just removing and replacing the old, small culvert and the companion dam-like water control structure, explained Erion, whose company has specialized in land restoration and rehabilitation projects since 1993.

“Historically, this area was not good terrain for a wetland,” Erion said, walking east into the former bog. “The small culvert choked off fresh water from flowing in and out as the Willamette River rises and falls with the tides backed up the Columbia River.

“When it’s finished, the area will flood during high water periods; and, in low-water times, the new channel we’re digging – it snakes through the area – will still provide a stream flowing through here,” Erion made clear.

“We’re working with a local company, Westlake Consultants – it’s another woman-owned business – which created a computer-aided design model of the new wetland area, and we’re using that digital information in our GPS-controlled excavating and contouring machines, allowing us to perfectly follow the topographical computer model!”

As part of the wetland contouring project, they’ll remove about 4,000 yards of material from the area.

“The project is coming along well, and it’s on schedule,” Erion told us. That schedule calls for the Springwater Trail through Oaks Bottom to reopen no later than October 31st.

OMSI, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, after dark, adults, Southeast Portland, Oregon
Guests Anna Sopocinski and Hunter Lea find themselves being examined by Sesame Street “scientists” Beaker and Dr. Bunsen Honeydew. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Exploring ‘After Dark’ – OMSI without kids


The nonprofit Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) continues to be a delightful family destination. But, for adults, visiting with kids swirling around the facility can be daunting.

“It’s true, OMSI is seen by many as a children’s museum, and many adults don’t what to come when the museum is packed with children and school groups – which is why our ‘After Dark’ events were created,” explained OMSI Event Planner Sonali Shivdasani.

“At ‘OMSI After Dark’ – we’re now in our 10th year of holding this once a month event; usually on the last Wednesday of each month – we open up, after hours, exclusively for those 21 years of age and older, so they can have fun here with other adults,” Shivdasani told THE BEE. “Looking around, you’ll find people having fun, which is important because science has no age!”

With disc jockeys playing music, with cash bars, and with a different theme every month, this continues to be a popular “date night”.

“In addition to singles, and groups of guys and gals coming, we’re told a lot of blind dates meet here, because it’s a safe place to come for something fun and interesting, yet planned for adults,” commented Shivdasani. “Our Turbine Hall features a mix of local food and spirit products; companies provide samples of their products, and sell them while meeting our guests.”

At any given “After Dark” one might see a magician, a juggler, or an aerialist performing live. And, participants have access to all of the exhibits that are normally open during the day.

“It’s amazing to me that, after a decade, so many people haven’t heard about ‘After Dark’,” Shivdasani observed. “When they find it and come, it’s fun to see them running around like kids themselves, without any kids around, having a great time with the any of the exhibits and features we offer.”

If you’re interesting in come to an “After Dark” at OMSI, the next one is September 26, 6-10 p.m., and the theme is “Brewfest”. The Oregon Museum of Sciencce and Industry is on S.E. Water Street, on the east bank of the Willamette River just north of the Ross Island Bridge, and under the east end of the Marquam Bridge.

For more information, go online –

Springwater Trail, Ross Island Sand and Gravel, brush fire, McLoughlin Boulevard, Portland Fire and Rescue, Oregon
Firefighters sprayed water down the steep slope above the Springwater Trail, to put out a brush fire burning near McLoughlin Boulevard. (PF&R photo)

Brushfire at Springwater Trail, below Ross Island Sand & Gravel


Neighbors who saw smoke and licks of fire leaping up behind the Ross Island Sand & Gravel parking lot in the late afternoon hours of July 24 were concerned – as were workers at the plant itself.

At 6:24 p.m. Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) dispatched units to an approximately 100 x 100 foot square blazing hillside area along the Springwater Trail, accessing it via a private unimproved road down behind the plant’s parking area off of S.E. McLoughlin Boulevard.

Firefighters from Westmoreland Station 20 began battling the blaze, aided by other rigs – drawing first from their own 1,000 gallon onboard tank, until a water tender arrived to provide an additional supply.

The crews were aided by a powerful stream of water shot from the turret of a fire boat in the Willamette River. “The steep terrain made this fire attack difficult for land crews, and the fire boat was very valuable,” commented a PF&R official.

Just before 7 p.m. the fire was declared out; but crews remained some time longer to make sure all hot spots had been extinguished.

There is no official word about what caused the blaze; neighbors watching the firefighting said that – because the Springwater Trail is closed to the south, in Oaks Bottom – they suspect it may have been started accidently by transients.

Portland General Electric, Lineman Rodeo, Southeast Portland, Oregon
At the Pacific Northwest Lineman Rodeo, electric utility workers show their skills. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Local lineman competes in regional ‘Rodeo’


What many people consider to be the electric utility industry’s most captivating competition brought teams of linemen from across the country to the 25th annual “Pacific Northwest Lineman Rodeo” on Saturday, July 28.

Hundreds of journeyman linemen and apprentices – as well as their families and friends – came to the day-long event, which is held each year on the edge of outer East Portland, hosted by Portland General Electric (PGE).

The local power utility continues to host the rodeo, which takes place at its Linneman substation in the far corner of Southwest Gresham. PGE spokesman Stan Sittser said the company chose that site because the property is also home to the outdoor training facility where linemen and apprentices can safely practice the high pole skills they need.

This annual competition is primarily a “rodeo in the sky” – linemen are tested on their speed, safety, skill, and strength, including “hurt-man rescues”, and pole climbs with a raw egg in the mouth!

Portland General Electric, Lineman Rodeo, Eric Wells, Southeast Portland, Oregon
Inner-Southeast-Portland-based PGE lineman Eric Wells takes a break from the rigors of competition at the Pacific Northwest Lineman Rodeo. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Taking a break was one of the competitors, lineman Eric Wells, who works out of the PGE Service Center on S.E. 17th Avenue near Holgate Boulevard, in the Brooklyn neighborhood.

“I’ve been in the rodeo for five years now, and it’s quite an honor to compete,” Wells told THE BEE.

Often, linemen work in solitude near the top of a power pole, as they fix a transformer lead, or reattach a downed line – which, in fact, are two of the tasks tested and timed during the rodeo.

“The camaraderie here is just great,” Wells smiled. “You get to know people from many locations. I’m working with people from the Washington, Spokane, and California. It’s a great job for me, because I like working outdoors – and the physical nature of the work means I don’t have to go to the gym!

“As we lineman show off our finely-honed skills, judges monitor the action to ensure the right tools are used in the correct manner; and, part of the rating comes in how safely we’re working,” explained Sittser. “A safety infraction can wipe out all our points for doing an excellent line repair demonstration, for example.”

Many people travel to watch these competitions, Sittser commented, since the general public is usually kept far away from dangerous lines or equipment. “But here at the Lineman Rodeo, one can be close enough to see and appreciate the work, the tremendous athleticism, and the skill that’s on display.”

In addition to this amazing aerial ballet, open free to the public, the Pacific Northwest Lineman Rodeo is also a fundraiser, with money raised to support the Legacy Oregon Burn Center and the construction of the new Emanuel Family House.

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