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New details emerge on downtown Portland historic church fire

By Adrian Thomas

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    PORTLAND, Oregon (KPTV) — There are new details emerging about the massive fire that burned the Old Portland Korean Church in downtown Portland.

The blaze erupted just after 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, and it took 80 firefighters to get the fire under control.

Eyewitnesses who live and work nearby say the church, even though it has been vacant and boarded up, they have seen dozens of people camping beside it, and some even reportedly breaking in.

“Heavy transient activity, you couldn’t even walk down the street because of tents,” said Brandon Flohr, who works in a nearby restaurant.

Videos shared by FOX 12 viewers from about a year ago appear to show evidence of fire activity near the church. In one, a man can be seen cooking over an open flame. Another showed what appears to be the charred remains of a campfire, all just steps from the abandoned church.

However, at this time fire investigators have not announced a cause.

PF&R officials say a smaller fire erupted in the church in Sept. 2020.

City records show the abandoned church is currently owned by Hadi Nouredine, a Beaverton dentist. FOX 12 visited Dr. Nouredine’s dental office and our crews were told he was not available to speak at the time. Staff at the dentist’s office confirmed Nouredine is the owner of the church.

Next to charred remains of the church, the staff at the Old Church Concert Hall say this fire was too close for comfort.

“Two wooden churches in downtown Portland a block away from one another, and equally vulnerable to flames,” said Old Church Concert Hall Executive Director Constance Bracewell. “So it definitely struck a chord.”

The Old Church Concert hall is housed in a church built in the 1880s similar in size and structure to the Old Portland Korean church that burned. Bracwell says Tuesday’s fire sends a grim message about the state of downtown Portland.

“We are working really hard to bring people back to downtown and to create a sense of safety downtown,” said Bracewell. “And when you see a vacant building go up in flames like that… it doesn’t instill a sense of safety.”

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