Pile of Shredded Tires Next to Steel Bridge Catches Fire on Holiday Weekend

Beau Blixseth, the son of a notorious Oregon timber baron, co-owns the heap of rubber.

Beau Blixseth’s tire pile caught fire—again.

Crews from Portland Fire & Rescue responded to reports this morning of acrid smoke from the three-story mountain of shredded tires that towers just north of the Steel Bridge beside the old Louis Dreyfus grain terminal. The pile originally caught fire early Thursday morning, closing streets near Moda Center and halting traffic on the Union Pacific rail line that runs near the site.

The rubber reignited early today, forcing fire trucks to return.

“It’s a giant pile of rubber, and there were probably some hot spots,” Portland Fire & Rescue spokesman Rick Graves said. “It had enough heat and air to get going.”

The old grain elevator is co-owned by Beau Blixseth, son of Tim Blixseth, the Roseburg timber baron who developed the Yellowstone Club, an ultra-luxe private ski resort in Montana that counts Bill Gates and Justin Timberlake among its members.

Beau Blixseth bought the grain terminal for $2.9 million in February 2021. Last year, he told WW that he wanted to reopen it for grain shipments. Instead, he and his business partner, Chandos Mahon, started piling up shredded tires at the site and loading them onto vessels bound for Asia, where the scrap is used for fuel. Mahon owns Castle Tire Recycling, which has a tire-processing plant in North Portland.

Fire officials haven’t determined the cause of the fire, Graves said. Mahon said the fire was arson.

“On May 25th, we experienced an unfortunate incident at our rubber export facility where a fire was deliberately started,” Mahon said in an email. “It is regrettable to share that this was not a random event, but an act of intentional vandalism and arson. This morning was most likely a hot spot that flared back up. In both situations, the fire was quickly extinguished. We are currently mobilizing a crew and excavator to identify any additional hot spots.”

The tire pile at the terminal can rise to four stories before a ship arrives. Then, loaders ferry buckets of rubber shards on board, and the pile vanishes. Today, the pile stood at about three stories. Fire personnel doused it this morning for the second time in a week. As of 9 am, a team from Station 13 in the Lloyd District was rolling up hoses while the pile still smoldered. Crews will return if Blixseth and Mahon can’t keep the pile from rekindling, a danger with tire fires, Graves said.

“We threw a ton of water on it,” he added.

The terminal has a mysterious history. In June 2019, global grain merchant Louis Dreyfus Co. sold the facility for $164,000 to a company called Rabin Worldwide, just six years after spending $21.5 million to renovate it. The price didn’t make any sense, and neither the seller nor the buyer would comment on it. Rabin Worldwide specializes in auctioning off industrial properties and equipment.

Spotting what they thought was a deal, Blixseth and Mahon bought the complex for $2.9 million through an entity called Castle Arden 1 LLC.

Blixseth said he planned to rent his terminal to a commodities shipper. But, after the purchase, he discovered that the Union Pacific railroad planned to modify a sharp corner near the terminal to prevent derailments, and the change would preclude rail service. Last year, Blixseth told WW that he had lots of other options, including turning the building into apartments, or building a modernist Ferris wheel like the London Eye.

Soon after that, the first tire shards appeared.

Beau’s father Tim grew up poor in Roseburg on a diet of Spam. He worked in lumber mills in high school, then bought two of his own. Through a series of timber deals, he raised enough money to start the Yellowstone Club in the 1990s. It thrived until 2008, when Blixseth and his wife, Edra, divorced. She got the club, which was freighted with debt and struggling, and put it into bankruptcy. A new owner has since revived it and added new members, including quarterback Tom Brady and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.