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Two-alarm fire damages Friends of Children facility

A two-alarm fire damaged the future East County site of Friends of the Children, just one day before the nonprofit group was to host its family day at Pat Pfiefer Park to celebrate its growth and announce its capital campaign to build a new facility in Rockwood.

Gresham firefighters were called at about 5:15 p.m. to the site, the former Police Activities League building at 424 N.E. 172nd Ave. A substantial fire was blazing, and about 40 firefighters from Gresham and Portland moved quickly to put it out.

The second alarm was recalled at about 5:49 p.m.

The fire’s cause is under investigation. Witnesses told fire department officials that they saw several young people run from the fire when it began in a rubble pile near the building.

Firefighters were able to protect and save the gymnasium, which Friends of the Children was preparing to remodel to create its first East County facility. Partial demolition of the building began this week by a private contractor.

Friends of the Children is expanding to better serve children and teens in East County, where need for the program is growing. The nonprofit is raising $5 million to fund the project, and planned a family celebration from noon to 3 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 13.

Megan Lewis, director of development and marketing for Friends of the Children, said Saturday’s celebration will continue.

The city of Gresham owns the property, and has given Friends of the Children a 99-year lease for $1 per year. Ground for the new building, designed with input from youth, is scheduled to be broken in early 2015. It is scheduled to open in fall 2015.

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