Portland Korean church hell puts focus on arson investigation techniques

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — For years, the Korean Church in Portland was considered unsafe due to previous fires, meaning firefighters and investigators were unable to enter. In most cases, investigators could have entered the remains of the burned church and inspected every piece of debris up close before demolition, but because it is not safe to go inside, they have had to rely on the power of technology.

When the church caught fire again on Tuesday night and began to spread to a nearby house, firefighters had to completely extinguish it from the outside because the fire was still raging inside.

“Any time they do that, for my particular job, it really complicates the investigation going forward because as the fire spreads, my evidence starts to be altered, destroyed or further collapsed,” senior Jason Anderson (Jason Andersen) said. Investigators with the Portland Fire Rescue Fire Investigation Team.

Assisted by Scappoose Fire, PFR used drones — or unmanned aerial vehicles, according to PFR — to go inside and not only explore the specific area of ​​interest where they believed the fire started, but to fully document the entire scene and create a 3D image comb for them one time. This is a new approach for fire investigation units.

“This is the first time we’ve used this drone technology to do what we’ve done, but with the capabilities it has, it’s definitely allowed us to do site inspections and document them in ways we wouldn’t otherwise be able to do. to,” Andersen said.

Still, there is a learning curve for the technology, Anderson said, comparing it to surgeons who used to operate on live patients, instead being asked to do the job via a robot in another room.

The suspect, Cameron Storer, also known as Nicolette, 27, came directly to the Multnomah County Detention Center on Wednesday and claimed responsibility for setting the church on fire, according to court records. They are now charged with multiple counts of arson and burglary. Investigators say a guilty plea could speed up some processes, but they still need to put together a full case and make sure the plea matches the physical evidence.

“Again, that’s one piece of the puzzle, but if we can’t corroborate the information that’s been presented, then we really don’t have a case,” Anderson said.

KOIN 6 asks Andersen what will happen if Stoller doesn’t come forward.

“I think we’re still able to do what we’ve been doing up until now, which is to do on-site investigations,” Anderson said. “I think at the end of the day, we could have gotten there, but when they come to you, it’s obviously a lot faster.”

Andersen went on to say how devastated the investigative sector was on the night of the fire. They had multiple simultaneous arson attacks across the city and eventually called all off-duty personnel to each call.

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