September 8, 2020
Portland Officials Warn Protesters That Fireworks, Molotov Cocktails Could Spark Out-Of-Control Fires

Authorities in Portland, Oregon, are warning protesters that some of the devices used in demonstrations, such as Molotov cocktails and fireworks, could spark fires while the state is bedeviled by dry and windy conditions.

As KATU News reported, protests have occurred almost nightly in the city since the death of George Floyd on May 25 and some of those have turned violent. Demonstrators have thrown Molotov cocktails at police, for example, or launched fireworks at them. In other cases, they've set fires to mattresses or the contents of dumpsters.

For example, according to a KGW report, on Sunday night firefighters battled mattress fires in at least two locations in the city. Further, police arrested at least one person holding a glass jar filled with an unidentified flammable liquid, while another detainee had a dish soap bottled filled with a flammable liquid with a wick attached to it.

Meanwhile, conditions in the region are right for fires to spread quickly, warned Rob Garrison with Portland Fire and Rescue.

"With this high wind, there's an extreme possibility for us to have a very large fire get out of control quickly. If sparks were to get into a neighborhood where there is someone with a large dry yard or something, that could be a concern," he said.

Beyond just being mindful of the potential to start fires, Garrison suggested everyone should plan on staying home due to high winds in the area.

"With this wind event, if people don't have to go out, treat it just like a winter storm; if you can stay at home, stay home," he said.

a fire set by protesters in portland
Getty Images | Nathan Howard

Fire crews in the city and its suburbs are stretched thin as they battle blazes large and small across the area, while hot, dry, and windy conditions are only making matters worse, according to a companion KATU report.

Near Clackamette Cove, a blaze is believed to have started in an abandoned industrial building and then spread to brush and trees before eventually consuming 12 acres and damaging four vacant industrial structures in the process. A nearby shopping center and apartment complex were in danger of being caught up in the conflagration and residents of the apartments could be seen evacuating as embers were blown into nearby trees.

Elsewhere, firefighters used thousands of gallons of water to put out a brushfire consisting of bark chips and wood fiber. Even though the surface fire has been put out, the embers are expected to continue burning.