PORTLAND, Ore. -- Fire consumed a historic old church of Southwest Portland Sunday afternoon, flames fueled by the old books it had been converted to sell some years ago, which sent smoke plumes up that were visible for miles.
The Northwest Bookstore, located at 3314 SW 1st Ave., caught fire sometime around 2 p.m., according to Portland Fire & Rescue. It quickly grew to a hot, three-alarm fire with asbestos-filled smoke threatening neighoring condos and onlookers.
No one was injured but the 120-year-old former Presbyterian Church was destroyed, its highly-flammable contents fueling the burn well into Sunday night. It was one of the oldest buildings in Southwest Portland, said Fire & Rescue spokesperson Dave Centers.
"Pretty tight quarters in an old part of Portland, so we have a lot of close-in houses and other buildings around it," Centers said. "It's a real old structure and we couldn't get into it."
Neighbors were distraught at the loss of the landmark.
"It's just a heartbreaking loss that this building is going away," said Steve Leflar, who lived nearby and had to fight back tears as he watched.
The fire grew so hot that firefighters could not safely enter the old structure to try and save it. Asbestos and other dangerous chemicals emitted by the burning books and laminate also posed a danger for nearby residents, prompting the evacuation of a four-unit condominium complex next door.
"That smoke just laid down right on top of firefighters," Centers said, adding, "it was just blinding and choking."
KGW Staff Wrtier Colin Miner contributed to this article.