PORTLAND, Ore. – Federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are in Portland helping investigate a large fire that destroyed a vacant hotel on Hayden Island.
The five-alarm fire, which was the largest Portland firefighters have seen in a decade, destroyed the old Thunderbird Hotel on Sunday morning.
ATF agents routinely respond to large commercial fires to help local agencies with fire investigations, agency spokesman Chris Porreca said.
At this point agents have not speculated on what caused the fire.
On Tuesday, agents worked with local firefighters to make sure the building was safe to enter. They brought in cranes and other heavy equipment to help do that.
“Safety is always our primary concern,” Porecca said.
The hotel, which has been vacant since 2005, was a wooden structure. Old mattresses and furniture helped fuel the fire, according to Fire Marshal John Harding.
Investigators are making sure any remaining floors are safe to walk across and that large wooden beams are secure.
A Portland Police spokesman said a detective is helping with the investigation, but so far they have not said if they think the fire was intentionally started.
Porecca asked for anybody who took pictures of the fire or who witnessed it to come forward and talk to investigators.
The owner of the vacant hotel owes more than $1.1 million in taxes on the building from 2009, 2010 and 2011, according to Brian Smith, a tax assessment official from Multnomah County.
Nobody has paid taxes on the building since November 2011.
Since it was vacated, the property has had problems with trespassers and transients.
In August, city officials looked into the property after getting a formal complaint. The person who filed the complaint said the owner didn't do enough to secure the property and keep people away.
"In this case, the property owner did respond in a timely manner, was very forthcoming, addresed all the concerns, addressed how they would fix those concerns, " said Mike Liefield with the Bureau of Development Services. "In terms of our timeline, yes, a pretty quick response."
The owner promised to maintain the fence, use a private security guard to patrol the grounds and give police permission to remove trespassers.
Porecca said there was a guard at the property on Sunday night.
Harding said fire marshals had previously been concerned about the building and that firefighters had conducted drills at the hotel.
KATU reporter Dan Cassuto contributed to this report