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Christmas morning fire deemed suspicious


by: MAYGAN BECKERS - No residents were injured in the 453 Montgomery St. house fire, as it remains standing after the third fire damage took place in the past 25 months.Woodburn and Oregon State Police are investigating a suspicious fire at 453 Montgomery St., which occurred on Christmas Day at about 2 a.m.

The fire reportedly started in an upstairs unoccupied bedroom and was extinguished before Woodburn and Hubbard fire districts arrived. Bill Hansen, Hubbard Fire District’s chief, arrived at the scene and mentioned there were minor damages.

Immediately before Woodburn and Hubbard fire districts arrived, neighbor Terry Will received a phone call at 2:02 a.m. from one of the house fire residents who was silent on the phone line and suddenly hung up.

“Apparently he was going to call for help and then realized he didn’t need it and just hung up the phone,” said Will.

After fire districts grew suspicious upon arrival, the Woodburn Police Department was contacted to investigate the scene.

“Right now, we’re talking to the occupants of the home and trying to figure out how the fire was actually started,” said WPD Det. Sgt. Nick Wilson.

On Nov. 5, 2011, the first fire caused $45,000 of damage to the structure and $20,000 to contents. The most recent fire reported on Aug. 8, familiarly started in an upstairs bedroom.

“I couldn’t believe the number of police cars out there,” said Will. “Obviously it’s some kind of mistake they’re doing over there to cause the fires.”

The homeowner, Ivan Usoltseff, reported to Wilson that one of the residents started the fire due to a drug problem. However Woodburn Police are still investigating and have not found concrete evidence to back up his claim.

Although the accused resident has not returned to the home since the incident, Wilson referred the homeowner to Marion County Courthouse for information on a restraining order.

According to Will, Woodburn Police have been seen about five times over the past 10 years, three of those times included the arrival of the SWAT team.

While Will looked out his kitchen window to watch the latest scene, he mentioned he didn’t see any other neighbors observing the incident.

“I think people just got used to it and don’t pay any attention,” he said.

Paul Iverson, Woodburn Fire District’s fire chief, mentioned the five residents were provided lodging at a local hotel by American Red Cross.

ARC also provided assistance with clothing, shoes, information on disaster mental health and health services.