Just before 11 pm on the Fourth of July, while many Inner Southeast residents were hunkered down inside their homes, comforting terrified pets, as large illegal fireworks exploded outside nearby – 9-1-1 operators received a report of bushes on fire, extending to a home, on the northeast corner of S.E. Glenwood and 16th Avenue, diagonally across the street from the Sellwood-Westmoreland Post Office.

When firefighters arrived they found a row of small trees burning next to a parking lot, and behind them an occupied duplex on fire. The blaze had already extended into the attic of the duplex, but the occupants and their pets had safely evacuated the building. A power line downed by flames caused an extra hazard for firefighters.

by: ERIC NORBERG - This occupied Westmoreland duplex, half a block from the Sellwood-Westmoreland Post Office, was heavily damaged by a fire sparked by illegal fireworks at 10:50 pm on the Fourth of July.Lt. Rich Chatman of Portland Fire and Rescue afterward reported, “The cause of this fire has been determined to be illegal fireworks. Witnesses said they saw an individual light a ‘mortar’ round and throw it on the ground near the bushes.” The Cascades Region Red Cross assisted two adults with food, and with other help, in the aftermath of the fire – which made the duplex at least temporarily uninhabitable.

In an unrelated incident at about the same time, 32-year-old Zachary Kirk Mosbrucker of Southwest Portland was lighting off illegal fireworks at N.E. 65th and Broadway – described as “some kind of an exploding fireworks rocket”. One of them exploded over the heads of four victims – two of them from Inner Southeast – rather than up in the air, as designed.

38-year-old Michael Molesworth of Inner Southeast Portland and a 16-year-old boy from Milwaukie were rushed to area hospitals for treatment of injuries, and two other bystanders received treatment at the scene. Mosbrucker was arrested and charged with four counts of Reckless Endangerment. He was booked into the Multnomah County Jail.

However, the culprit in the Westmoreland fire had not been identified, at last report.

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