A man who Portland police say started a grass fire and set off a four-alarm blaze along Northeast 82nd Avenue this August was arrested Thursday and charged with seven counts of arson.
The August fire sent plumes of dark smoke into the air that lingered for hours and could be seen from miles away. Residents in nearby buildings were forced to evacuate, and the police bureau reports that damages caused exceeded $1 million in property damages. Five homes and two business were severely damaged, including a boxing gym.
The fire reached a car lot being rented by a nearby auto shop, angering the flames and causing the fire to spread further. The field where the fire started has gone undeveloped for close to 20 years, but almost became a Walmart 12 years ago. Neighbors ultimately squashed the deal and drove out potential big-box developers.
Police say the fire was one of several set this year by 39-year old Allen Singerhouse.
On Sept. 1, nearly a week after the field fire that left residential and business buildings in ruins, police say Singerhouse set fires at two separate dumpsters: one at the Concordia University campus and one at a Michael's craft store, both located in Northeast Portland.
The police bureau said in a statement it was able to identify Singerhouse through video surveillance of the August fire and one of the September fires, obtained during the investigation. When police released an arrest warrant and searched Singerhouse, they found two pipes suspected of being used for methamphetamine use.
According to court documents, Singerhouse initially denied starting the fires, but later admitted to intentionally setting them after police questioned inconsistencies in his narrative.
The police characterized Singerhouse's intentional fires as "some of the most devastating arson crimes to hit Portland in recent memory."
The investigation that identified Singerhouse as the culprit in the recent fires was a joint effort between Portland Police and Portland Fire and Rescue.