Accused arsonist found ‘watching fire burn’

Damage est. are between $350,000 to $900,000

Louis Duncan, 34, shown in a jail booking photo.
Louis Duncan, 34, shown in a jail booking photo.

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – A father getting his children ready for daycare opened his door to a “wall of fire,” according to court documents.

The person accused of starting the fire that ripped through an apartment complex in Northeast Portland is now charged with 2 counts of first-degree arson, and could be facing more charges.

Louis Duncan appeared in court on Thursday following his arrest Wednesday in the 5500 block of Northeast Killingsworth.

The investigation started when police and firefighters were dispatched to the apartment complex on reports of heavy fire showing from the building.

The most extensive damage to the apartment complex was found inside Duncan’s apartment unit, according to court documents. Inside his apartment, all the furnishings appeared to be stacked up and piled up in the living room, according to investigators.

Investigators spoke with witnesses at the scene. They identified Duncan as a potential suspect. According to court documents, Duncan was outside “watching the fire burn.”

KOIN 6 News reporter Brent Weisberg spoke with Duncan as the firefighters put out the blaze. He declined to do an on-camera interview. At the time, we didn’t know he was a potential suspect. As the fire burned, Duncan said he wanted to “talk with the investigators first,” but confirmed that there were no injuries.

When arson investigators spoke with Duncan, he said he had started the fire because his neighbors were trying to kill him and he needed to stop them, according to court documents. Duncan went on to tell investigators that he used a lighter to light an envelope on fire and then used the burning material to start a blanket on fire.

Damage estimates to the building have been determined to be anywhere from $350,000 to $900,000, according to court documents.