Suspected Arsonist Charged With Igniting 4-Alarm Blaze That Destroyed SW Portland Apartment Building

Garrett Repp repeatedly pulled fire alarms and cut a hole through his wall to occupy the neighboring apartment, the building’s owner told a fire investigator.

Four-alarm fire at Southwest 14th and Taylor. (Mike Warner / KATU-TV)

Police have arrested Garrett A. Repp, 30, and charged him with starting the four-alarm blaze that consumed a Southwest Portland apartment building earlier this month, forcing 16 people to evacuate. The building partially collapsed, but there appear to have been no serious injuries.

Repp was arraigned in court today, and a judge ordered he be held in jail until a hearing next week. He’s been charged with two counts of first-degree arson, 11 counts of felony criminal mischief, and 18 counts of reckless endangerment.

Repp was a tenant of the building and had a troubled history. He had been evicted for not paying more than $3,000 in rent, and sheriff’s deputies were scheduled to remove him from his third-floor apartment the morning of the blaze.

Instead, prosecutors say, he burned it down. An affidavit submitted to a judge this afternoon by the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office describes the evidence collected during a weeklong investigation by Portland Fire & Rescue and the Portland Police Bureau.

According to that affidavit, Repp had a history of disruptive behavior. He repeatedly pulled fire alarms and cut a hole through his wall to occupy the neighboring apartment, the building’s owner Larry Kelley told a fire investigator.

Fire inspectors were later able to trace the fire’s source back to Repp’s third-floor apartment, the affidavit says, where an “accelerant detection canine” found five traces of an “ignitable liquid” in his kitchen and dining room.

The day of the fire, a neighbor called 911 after hearing a loud slam next door, and reported seeing broken glass on his fire escape and smoke billowing out the windows. The fire later spread upward, and a woman living in the apartment above reported black smoke “coming through the floor of her closet.”

Investigator Nicole Brewer later reported “fire patterns” emanating from Repp’s apartment. The entire fourth floor of the building was eventually destroyed in the blaze, which shut down traffic in much of downtown Portland and required more than 100 firefighters to extinguish.

Repp had been arrested previously for trespassing at another downtown condo in April. The woman who lived there claimed Repp was stalking her and had forced his way into the apartment.

A spokesman said the fire bureau was “aggressively” pursuing the ongoing investigation.

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