Portland police announced Thursday night they had arrested a person in connection with an apartment fire last week that sent many people fleeing for their lives.
The May 16 fire in a Goose Hollow neighborhood apartment building led to several residents needing rescue from the five-story building. Smoke from the fire also blanketed large parts of Portland and shut down I-405 for several hours.
In a statement, the Portland Police Bureau said it had arrested a resident of the May Apartments, 30-year-old Garrett A. Repp, in connection with the blaze. Repp is in custody at the Multnomah County Detention Center on two charges of first degree arson, 18 charges of recklessly endangering another person and 11 charges of first-degree criminal mischief.
Court records show Repp had been evicted from unit 310 of the building in March because he hadn’t paid $3,405 in rent and late fees owed from December through February. Repp continued to live in the apartment after the eviction notice as the property owners amended his move out date, according to the court records, but the court issued an order to the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office on May 10 to forcibly remove him from the building.
Criminal court records also show Repp was cited in April for trespassing into the home of another person at an apartment building a few blocks away from the May Apartments. According to that citation, Portland police officers entered an apartment at the building after being called and “saw a man hiding in crouched position in the corner of the room behind the bed. The man identified himself as Garrett Repp.”
Prosecutors charged Repp with criminal trespass in the case and he was ordered to not have contact with the person who owned the apartment.
The Portland Fire Investigation Unit has been investigating the May Apartments fire’s cause, which severely damaged several floors of the more than 100-year-old building, since it happened. Firefighters previously said the fire had started on the top floors of the apartment, but it was not initially clear if it had begun in Repp’s former unit.
Fire officials said the top floors of the May Apartments were gutted by the fire, and lower floors in the 42-unit building had significant water damage. Firefighters have said the building’s owner will need to have a structural engineer assess the apartments to see if they are safe to stay up.
In the months leading up to the fire, city staff and firefighters had responded to the May Apartments several times for false fire alarms and safety issues. City inspectors had been to the building as recently as the day before the fire.