Son of wrecking yard owner suspects foul play before official fire investigation begins

Firefighters battle a massive fire that started at an auto-wrecking yard at 7600 Northeast Killingsworth Street in Portland Monday morning.

Firefighters in Northeast Portland battled a massive fire that started at an auto-wrecking yard before destroying an apartment complex and duplex Monday morning.

The wrecking yard property at 7600 Northeast Killingsworth Street includes two businesses, Northwest Motors and Northwest Metals, each with the same owner.

Moyata Anotta, the owner's son, told KATU it's a family-run business and he suspects the fire was intentionally set, though he was not there when it started and he couldn't say for sure.

Portland Fire and Rescue, the lead investigating agency, would not confirm Anotta's claims Monday afternoon, saying the investigation had not yet begun and was likely to start Tuesday.

Anotta said one of the business's managers called him around 9 a.m., about five minutes before he got to work, to tell him about the fire. He said flames erupted in the back of the auto scrap yard near a brand new shredding machine that was just installed. He estimated the flames had destroyed nearly $2 million worth of material, including the shredder, by Monday afternoon.

Anotta said the business was targeted several times over the past four or five years though he wouldn't say how. A spokeswoman for Portland Fire and Rescue said authorities were not aware of any attempts to target the business in the past.

She said the business was storing gasoline in barrels on the site.

Anotta said his family's property has never caught fire before.

Foster Rohde, who lives about a mile from the business, told KATU he wasn't surprised to see it go up in flames.

"I knew exactly what it was when I seen it from my house," Rohde said. "I work for a tow company and about three months ago I towed a vehicle out of here and they were saying how not to be smoking around there and you could smell fumes coming out of the building. You know, gas."

Another neighbor, Jack Stark, called the business an eyesore, saying the stacks of wrecked vehicles were progressively getting higher.

"It wouldn't make me unhappy if they moved," Stark explained. "I'd like to see 'em out further on the edges of town if they have to be close to the town."

Another neighbor, Cheri Hall, sent KATU a photo she said she took a month ago showing a large stack of scrapped vehicles in the yard. She said the stack got even higher over the past few weeks.

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