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Scrap yard fire evacuees begin returning home

NE Portland scrap yard fire photo by Reed Andrews

Many of the people forced to evacuate Monday night because of the five-alarm scrap yard fire got to go back home Tuesday morning.

Officials said the air quality improved significantly overnight, allowing them to lift some of the mandatory evacuations.

Overnight about 141 people and 15 animals stayed at the shelter in Southeast Portland.

"This is my first time in a shelter and my family's first time,” Abdikadir Mohamed, who lives in NE Portland, said.

Others found shelter in nearby motels or with friends and family.

Many got the word they had to get out late last night. Police used megaphones and reverse 911 calls to spread the word.

Just blocks from the fire, on NE 72nd just north of NE Killingsworth, many chose not to evacuate. Others said they tried calling 211, but their ride to safety never came.

"So, we eventually just said screw it and went to bed. We had no other choice really," Preston Jackson, who didn't get to evacuate, said.

The communications director with Multnomah County recommends people call the transportation line if they need help evacuating. That number is 503-823-2323.

Others in that same neighborhood with their own transportation, like Jimmy and Nancy Tassin, were able to get out, though. The couple decided to go to a nearby motel because it was too risky for them to stay.

"I've got calcification in my lungs and stuff,” Jimmy explained.

Jimmy has pulmonary fibrosis. That puts him in the vulnerable category, which means he has to be extra careful.

But his precaution serves as a good reminder for others that this fire burned heavily and intensely, and it could have long-term effects.

"Many of the things produced are known to be carcinogens, and we may not know that for some time,” Dr. Paul Lewis, the Multnomah County health officer, said. “We're proud of Portland Fire and Rescue for really containing this fire very quickly even though it was a raging inferno."

One of the best ways you can protect yourself, is to get a mask like this with at least an n-95 filter. Here are some options you can buy.

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