by: DAVID F. ASHTON - An aerial ladder illuminates the roof at Mikes Auto Parts during this major fire in Woodstock. Mike’s Auto Parts, a cornerstone of the Woodstock business district, was ravaged by fire in the late evening of Tuesday, February 18.

A smoke detector in the shop area activated at 10:10 pm, dispatching crews from Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) Woodstock Station 25, Westmoreland Station 20 – and eventually many other stations’ crews – to 6004 S.E. 52nd Avenue, at Woodstock Boulevard.

One of the residents in the apartment above the front of the store, Max, said he’d recently moved to Portland from Boston. Fortunately, he wasn’t sleeping when the fire broke out.

“I smelled smoke,” Max told THE BEE. “I remembered what I learned in elementary school: ‘When you smell smoke, get out! Then, call 9-1-1.’ That’s what we did.”

Holding his laptop computer recovered for him by the on-scene PF&R Fire Investigator, Max looked concerned, but not distraught. “I hope the smoke damage to our things isn’t too bad.”

However, the damage most likely was significant. Thick, dark smoke billowed out of the apartment windows and doors, as well as the front of the store, out roof vents, and under eaves.

“Due to the size of the building, and the nature of the business, the Incident Commander decided to upgrade the response to a second alarm, bringing several Engine and Ladder Truck crews to deal with the potential hazards,” PF&R spokesman Lt. Damon Simmons reported.

At first, firefighters had difficulty finding the seat of the fire in the large smoke-filled building. But, crews used a thermal imaging camera to locate the heat source. “They directed other fighters to the location of the fire,” Simmons added.

While fire crews worked into the night, extinguishing hot spots and removing debris, volunteers with the American Red Cross Cascades Region provided the two men displaced by the fire with food, clothing, shoes, bedding and linens, comfort kits, and information about disaster mental health and disaster health services.

Having opened the business in the early 1970s, Mike’s Auto Parts owner Pat Mahoney is one of the few independent retailers in its field to remain in operation.

Darren Savio, Manager of the Woodstock store, spoke with THE BEE after the fire.

“Although the fire was in the back of the building, in our shop area, we’ve had a lot of smoke damage in the retail part of the store,” he said.

There’ve been rumors floating around about what caused the fire, Savio added, especially when a local television station reported that “arson investigators” were at the scene. Portland Fire and Rescue does not have any dedicated “arson investigators”.

“One of the rumors we heard was that the fire started in our ‘paint booth’ – but we don’t have a paint booth in our shop!” Savio remarked. “As we looked at the damage, we suspected that the fire may have been caused by an electrical malfunction, starting in a wall socket.”

“It’s true,” Lt. Simmons commented, “PF&R Investigators have not yet released their determination of how this fire started. These investigations can be lengthy, if only because there are many elements to examine and consider.

“Investigators did say,” Simmons confirmed, “there was no paint booth in the building!”

While they rebuild the Woodstock store, Savio said, they’ll be serving their retail customers from a temporary store, located inside AED Inc., a cooperative automotive aftermarket parts company, located in the Reed neighborhood.

“Come see us at AED, it’s at 2734 S.E. Raymond Street, four blocks south of Holgate Boulevard,” Savio said. “We’re still happy to install your wiper blades!”

Their regular telephone number, 503/774-8841, has been temporarily forwarded to the new location.

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