Downtown food carts destroyed by fire, explosion

At least 10 cars were also damaged

The damaged food carts and cars were still in the lot on Thursday, October 19 2017. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Two food carts, 10 cars and a tree were destroyed by a fire and explosion on SW 1st and Columbia shortly after 3 p.m. on Wednesday.

Crews quickly knocked down the flames at the Lai Thai and The Greek Gods Gyro food carts when they arrived. Construction workers who were nearby said the food cart employees tried to extinguish the fire but it spread too quickly. The employees all got out safely.

Fire department officials said the explosions were likely car tires and aerosol containers.

“Shortly after I got here, just a big explosion. It caught about 4, 5 more cars on fire right away,” witness Robert Black told KOIN 6 News.

The parking lot attendant said he tried to move some of the cars but the fire was moving too fast.

A food cart fire at SW 1st and Columbia sent a large plume of smoke through downtown Portland, October 18, 2017 (KOIN)
A food cart fire at SW 1st and Columbia sent a large plume of smoke through downtown Portland, October 18, 2017 (KOIN)

Noah Brasseur, who works in the Wells Fargo Tower, said the smoke and flames were visible over the top of tall downtown buildings.

“The smoke was going above the new building, cause that’s where we saw it to,” Brasseur said. “We saw the smoke up to our office. Actually people across from our office saw it going over the building.”

One man whose truck was destroyed said he was more concerned for the owners of the food carts.

“The truck can be replaced,” Brian Greig said. “But the family, I mean, this is their livelihood, this is how they pay their bills.”

The fire department determined the fire started when an employee of one of the carts was refilling a gas generator while it was still

Portland Fire and Rescue said because the generator was outside, that’s not a fire code violation, just a safety hazard. Food carts do not need permits to run generators outside, and it is not illegal to add fuel while a generator is hot or running.

Food carts do need permits for propane tanks but in this case, the propane was not the cause of the explosion.

A spokesperson for the fire department said this unfortunate incident but sometime that’s what drives policy change.

“It is very unfortunate, but it is important that everyone practice good fire safety,” said Cpt. Louisa Jones. “They did have 2 fire extinguishers that they did use to try and extinguish the flames but because it was a gas fire, a liquid fire, the standard fire extinguishers did not work.”

Two people were evaluated at the scene but no one was seriously injured.