Arrest made in fire at former Portland Korean Church, now set for demolition

Arrest made in fire at former Portland Korean Church, now set for demolition

Portland police arrested a 27-year-old suspect on charges of arson and burglary in Tuesday’s fire at the former Portland Korean Church, Portland Fire & Rescue officials announced Wednesday night.

Officials identified the person as Cameron David Storer, also known as Nicolette Fait. Court records show the suspect is scheduled to appear in court Thursday, the same day city officials plan to demolish the dilapidated 118-year-old building.

Fire officials declined to provide additional details about the cause of the fire or their investigation.

No one was injured in the three-alarm fire at Southwest 10th Avenue and Clay Street, but flames displaced five residents of a home near the three-story former church, a Portland Fire & Rescue spokesman said early Wednesday morning.

Demolition of the building Thursday morning will close nearby streets — and a chapter of 20th-century Portland.

The building has been vacant since 2015, when the Korean Church of Portland sold the building to Hadi Nouredine, a Beaverton and Lake Oswego dentist. According to city records, the property is valued at over $1 million. A receptionist at Nouredine’s dental office said he was not available for comment Wednesday afternoon.

The congregation, once the oldest Korean congregation in the state, had occupied the 3,000-square-foot church since 1978 under the sponsorship of the Northwest Annual Meeting of Friends, a Quaker organization. Its members previously worshiped at a church at 23rd Avenue Northeast and Sumner Street, according to archival advertisements placed by the church in The Oregonian/OregonLive.

Built in 1905 for $18,000, the ornate church with a 35-foot steeple originally housed the First Evangelical Church of Portland, which had a German-speaking membership, according to the caption of a 1978 file photo from The Oregonian/OregonLive.

Portland Fire & Rescue classified the building as unsafe to enter after a September 2020 fire damaged the interior of the church and left holes in its floors. An agency spokesman said in 2020 that the cause of that fire, which also had no injuries, had not been identified at the time.

Fire officials have been working with the building’s owner since the 2020 fire to ensure the church’s entrances and windows were blocked. A fire prevention specialist has also regularly evaluated the building since 2020, Portland Fire & Rescue officials said Wednesday. The specialist’s most recent visit to the church was on Friday.

Firefighters responded to the latest fire shortly before 5:30 p.m. Tuesday and found heavy flames pouring from the building and spreading toward a home about 10 feet to the east, according to Portland Fire & Rescue. The fire agency called for help and at one point 20 crews and 80 firefighters were on the scene battling the blaze.

– Beth Slovic; [email protected]; Catalina Gaitán, [email protected]

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