Person Set Fire to Century-Old Portland Church on Orders From Voices in Her Head, Court Records Say

Nicolette Fait wanted to “take credit” for the blaze.

Firefighters surround the remains of Portland Korean Church. (Mick Hangland-Skill)

The person accused of setting a three-alarm fire Jan. 3 that destroyed the vacant, 117-year-old Portland Korean Church walked into the Multnomah County Detention Center the next morning to “take credit” for the blaze.

Nicolette Fait, 27, allegedly told investigators that she suffers from schizophrenia and set fire to the empty church because the voices in her head threatened to “mutilate” Fait if she didn’t burn it down.

Fait said she moved to Portland about a year ago and is houseless, according to a probable cause affidavit. She takes about 10 oxycodone pills a day for an injury, she told investigators.

“Defendant’s fingertips appeared burned and black,” noted deputy district attorney Eric Palmer.

Fait was charged Wednesday with first-degree arson, second-degree arson and second-degree burglary.

Fait told Portland Fire & Rescue Arson Detective Meredith Hopper that she had planned the fire either that day or the day before and chose the church at the corner of Southwest 10th Avenue and Clay Street because it was empty.

Fait said she lit the fire in a second-story office of the church, where a desk was covered in papers. “Defendant stated they used a white Bic lighter to set fire to the papers on the desk,” Palmer wrote. “Defendant then exited the building and watched the glow of fire through the windows. Defendant reported walking to a nearby Plaid Pantry and then returning to the church to see if it was still burning.”

Arson investigators found Fait’s account matched the evidence at the scene. Drone footage indicated that the fire started in an upstairs, northeast corner room of the church. Photos taken inside the church after a previous fire showed a desk with papers in that room. Security cameras showed Fait entering Plaid Pantry after the fire.

And Fait provided Detective Hopper with the white Bic lighter.

The church, which was built in 1905 as the First German Evangelical Church, was scheduled to be torn down this morning to prevent its steeple from collapsing onto overhead Portland Streetcar cables. But that demolition was delayed. The fire bureau has not yet said why.

Update, 7:55 pm: This post has been updated to better reflect Fait’s gender identity. Court documents initially identified Fait by her legal name, Cameron Storer. In those documents, the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office used they/them pronouns because prosecutors were unsure of the suspect’s gender identity. But in reports from the courtroom and on social media, Fait identified as female.

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