On August 8, 2001, at around 5:45 p.m., a fire broke out along the bluff that borders the University and the east side of the Willamette River. Witnesses reported seeing a passing train throwing sparks along the base of the bluff. Within a half hour the fire threatened homes along Willamette Boulevard. Tinder dry conditions, gusty winds, and decades worth of accumulated fuel along the steeply sloped bluffs made for a nightmare scenario as flames leaped 50 or more feet in the air along a nearly two-mile-long path. Although the blaze was never an immediate threat to campus buildings, some students, staff, and members of the Holy Cross religious community were soon involved in giving help to threatened householders and firefighters. Before it was brought under control, the fire reached five-alarm status, engaging all on-duty members of the Portland fire bureau. Fire chiefs called in three fireboats to pump Willamette River water on the flames and private and Air National Guard aircraft to drop water from the air, turning the neighborhood into a scene reminiscent of a California wildfire. No homes were lost or serious injuries suffered, but firefighters remained on the scene throughout the night and into the daylight hours of August 9.
For more history from this week see the University Almanac at www.up.edu/almanac.