Portland, OR Hotel Fire Caused By Arsonist, July 1975


Portland, Ore. (UPI) -- Eight men were killed and 26 persons injured, eight of them critically, when an arson caused fire swept through the Pomona Hotel on skid row late Monday night.
JOHN A NEWVINE, 62, who lives 17 blocks from the Pomona, was charged early today with arson and homicide, Portland Police Bureau Capt. RICHARD WALKER said. NEWVINE gave no reason for setting the fire, WALKER said.
"When we got there people were hanging by their fingertips from a third floor ledge," Portland Fire Bureau assistant Chief WAYNE LILMBETH said. "You'd see one face at a window and rescue him and another one would be right behind him."
"We had people lying all over the sidewalk -- some dead, some alive."
BOB HARRIS, 43, who called in the first alarm at about 11 p.m. when he saw smoke pouring out of a second story window, said "one man was just hanging from a second floor window by the crook of his arm. The fire department had arrived by that time and they got him down on a ladder."
"I saw three, four, five people hanging out of windows on the second floor and I kept yelling to them, 'don't jump, the fire department is on the way.'"
LAMBETH said a thorough search of the building was made.
"We don't believe there are any more people in there," he said.
Three fire fighters were injured while fighting the blaze.
Lt. ADRIAN BYERLY was "badly cut in the face by glass," LAMBETH said, and fire fighter DEAN JOHNSTON fell down a fire escape while trying to rescue a struggling tenant. BILL INGLESBY was treated for hand and back burns and released from a local hospital.
LAMBETH said the fire caused about $135,000 damage to the brick structure which contained shops on the first floor and rooms on the top two.
A fire bureau spokesman said the blaze was not a "spectacular fire because there was very little in the way of flames. But the building was filled with heavy smoke, making it very difficult to evacuate the residents."
NEWVINE was taken into custody two and a half blocks from the scene of the fire, WALKER said. "He was identified as having been at the scene," he added, "as well as having purchased gasoline from a nearby station."

Nashua Telegraph New Hampshire 1975-07-08