Fire that leveled Portland apartment building ruled arson; reward offered

PORTLAND, Ore. - The fire that that last week leveled a five-story apartment building that was still under construction was intentionally set, Portland's fire chief said Monday.

The fire destroyed the Monroe Apartments at the Martin Luther King Boulevard and Northeast Monroe Street intersection early Thursday morning. It drew all of the Portland Fire Bureau's firefighters and was one of the largest blazes in recent memory. By the time the first crews arrived, the entire building was up in flames and it quickly collapsed.

The Portland Fire Bureau is asking for the public's help. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is offering a reward of up to $2,500 for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case.

The fire bureau would not say what specific evidence led investigators to determine the fire was intentionally set.

"The investigators at this point have determined that whatever the device, or whatever was used to start this fire, the intention was considered arson," said Lt. Rich Chatman with the Portland Fire Bureau.

Chatman says investigators don't believe the fire was caused by negligent squatters or was set inadvertently. He says investigators don't believe the fire is connected to other crimes.

The fire required seven ladder trucks, more than two dozen engines and more than 120 firefighters.

No one was hurt, but the blaze was massive. Glowing debris and embers from the fire fell all over the neighborhood and people ran from their homes, grabbing hoses to wet their property in case the flames got close.

The fire caused an estimated $5 million in damage.

Anyone with information about the fire is asked to call the ATF tip line at 1-888-283-3473.

"They want any and all information. They're willing to sort through lots of leads if they have to, and I think that has a lot to do with why they're not being very specific with what they're looking for," said Chatman.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.