Pamplin Media Group – Centennial Historic Roseway Theater Destroyed by Fire
North of Southeat Portland, but a century-old icon for all of East Portland, the Roseway Theater burns; includes VIDEO
After surviving changes in motion picture distribution and shifting moviegoer demographics – and the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic – the historic independent Roseway Theatre, built in 1925, was destroyed by fire early on Saturday morning August 6. Normally, THE BEE wouldn’t have covered a fire so far outside of Inner Southeast Portland. But there are a few historic businesses elsewhere in the city’s east side that have emotional ties to many people in the inner southeast, and this is surely one of them – not just many of our residents remember seeing a new or older movie at this venerable Sandy Boulevard Theater, but recently it was – to our knowledge – one of only two single-screen theaters left showing only first-run movies east of the Willamette River. The other, of course, is the Moreland Theater in Westmoreland.
At 5:59 a.m., a PF&R battalion commander called a “second alarm,” calling in firefighters and additional devices. Shortly after, firefighters forced their way into the building and began to search for the fire – but the ground began to crumble beneath them and flames began to burn through the roof. This forced the crews to come back outside and fight the fire from the outside. At 6:22 a.m., commanders called for a “third alarm” to bring in more firefighters. At the time, firefighters were now battling this blaze with large, high-pressure water jets sprayed from above, using nozzles mounted on several elevated ladders on ladder trucks. Crews also soaked nearby buildings to prevent the fire from spreading to nearby businesses.
By 7:36 a.m., crews from the Portland Bureau of Transportation had been called in to alleviate heavy water runoff on Sandy Boulevard. By 9:45 a.m., firefighters had brought most of the blaze under control, but falling wood and debris were still trapping embers and hot spots inside the building. “That means this fire will be burning for a long time today,” PF&R public information officer Lt. Damon Simmons told reporters.
As many as 85 firefighters responded to the blaze, Lt Simmons said, adding: ‘We found no one inside and no injuries were reported. Here is a short BEE video on the scene: youtu.be/XZqlze5fgXQ
Investigators began looking for the cause and point of origin of the fire later the same day, but fire investigators finally announced on August 22 that the cause of the fire was electrical in nature, adding: “Further analysis may be required to identify the specific failures that led to this tragedy. Arson has been ruled out and this fire was accidental in nature.”
PF&R considers the building a total loss – unless its owners decide to level and completely rebuild the theater on the site.
It seems that a historic century-old independent movie theater, to which many in Portland had an emotional attachment, has disappeared.
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