The Forest Park Fire of 2025
This is a fictitious story; I want to remind you of that. A horrifying, gruesome story that hopefully will never actually happen or come true in my lifetime. After what I’ve witnessed as of late, they’re warning signs all around us. For those that would like to think that something like the fires in Lahaina, Hawaii couldn’t happen here in Portland. The reality is this story could occur, don’t take anything for granted my friend, if you do, you’re a fool.
The times they are a changin’, where the extreme with the environment has gone and where people have fallen to deaf ears, from ignoring the natural facts passed down from the elder Oregonian natives that went back generations, from the wise ones that knew that something like this might occur. The ones that weren’t in it for the profit. The ones that remembered the Tillamook fire back in 1933.
The following tale is a dark story twisted tale, a made-up yarn if you will in describing in detail what could be considered a horrific destructive fire if it happened, a catastrophic fire the likes that has never been seen before. Portland, Oregon is the site where this ungodly fire could occur. Or should I say would occur in the hot summer of 2025.
The Gorge fires were the warning sign me thingst, clear as the nose on your face, fears of red hot embers flying in the air and drifting into Forest Park came to mind, then the Santiam fires a few years later, the smoke that filled the southern skies here in Portland was terrifying and the terrible air quality to follow and the 116-degree temperatures and the Maui catastrophe and the countless fires in Northern California unclouding the big burn at Big Basin. It was bound to happen I suppose, the possibility of a nightmare occurring in the town that I was born. The sacred ground, the ground and hills I walked as a child. The hills and the forest that’s a part of my soul and spirit. I cherish Forest Park.
The Forest Park fire did happen unfortunately, it was unbelievable. On August 10, 2025, to be exact. The forest, usually a sanctuary for both nature and humans, now found itself at the mercy of the flames. Panic spread through the city as the fire grew, threatening to consume everything in its path. The brave firefighters of Portland quickly sprang into action, their determination fueled by their love for the forest. They formed a strategy to control the fire, dividing the park into several zones. Each zone would be handled by a different team, assigned to contain the fire and prevent it from spreading further. As the firefighters fought valiantly, they managed to control the fire in certain areas. Their efforts were nothing short of heroic, as they tirelessly battled the raging inferno. It was devastating.
I was suddenly and unpoetically awoken by the disturbing sirens and then flames as I awoke in my apartment. The neighbors above me stomped on the floor, scurrying about. In the middle of the night, it was, it was like waking up in a hornet’s nest, a nightmare unfolding. I lived at the dead end of N.W. Pettygrove. Dry trees cracking in the wind as the fire spread quickly through hills directly behind Chapman Grade School. Without any warning. I could see the fire engulfing homes on Raleigh Street, The flames located not more than three blocks to the west from my apartment.
I panicked, I had to think quickly; the flames were getting close and I could tell I didn’t have much time to waste. I grabbed some water bottles, food, a family album and fled out my front door. I decided to pack my camera as well and threw on my hiking boots and grabbed my cell phone, I didn’t have time to grab anything else. The fire traveled fast as I ran out the door.
Tenets in my apartment were scrambling in the parking lot out in front of the apartment, stuffing things in their cars. Older folks had worried looks on their faces. Sirens kept constantly screaming and echoed off in the distance. I looked east down N.W. Pettygrove and could see a traffic jam at N.W. 25th. Horns were honking and people were screaming. I knew that I couldn’t drive my car through the crowd, I decided to run up the staircase up to N.W. Cornell. The flames were approaching from the west and from the north, soon my apartment was engulfed. Winds whipped through the trees. Montgomery Park was in ruins. Explosions roared off in the night. Large search lights scanned the Willamette Heights neighborhood.
I headed up the staircase and decided, unfortunately, to head to higher ground, I had no choice. As I ran, I stopped and tried to get a quick glimpse of where the fire was going. I could see the burning rubble, and homes going up one by one. I was taking photographs with my camera, I tried to record everything that I could. I put a face mask on. I had to use a flashlight to see through the smoke. Smoldering remains of firs and old growth burned to the ground. Powerlines came falling.
The sparks and small fires reminded me of sparklers on the 4th. of July; burning bright in the dark night. An constant orange glow lit the sky. Huge trees had fallen on the road; telephone poles had toppled down. Several abandoned cars were left to burn as people tried to escape the deadly flames. The fire got closer from the wind, whipping the fire through the neighborhood. I panicked, where would I go?
I decided to run up the long, long staircase off S.W. Aspen, up to N.W. Westover. Firetrucks roared by as people drove off in the dark night trying to escape. I noticed the fire had engulfed the Cornell Tunnels. I kept running up through the series of staircases, finally arriving to the back road of the Pittock Mansion. I turned to look at the fire and could see that it was heading up Wildwood Trail, heading towards me! The fire was coming from the north and west. Huge flames engulfed the dense forest. The winds and dry conditions created a massive viscous blaze.
I made my way up to what once was the Pittock Mansion. When I got to the front of the mansion, what laid in front of me was the complete devastation of Forest Park looking as far as the eye could see to the west. Downed trees covered the front lawn. The fire had burned a ragged, scared swatch to the west for almost ten miles, a mile or so to the north. To the east I could see that it was heading to the Willamette River. The flames were heading toward N.W. Burnside to the south.
Scattered dead bodies were found on the roadside as crows picked at the fresh carcasses. Thick, dense black smoke covered the air, choking gray smog and soot were spread about. It was hard to see from the smoke in the air. The heavy ash had piled up on roofs of homes and bright embers laid on top of the roofs.. The air was thick with smoke making it almost impossible to breath. The scared landscape laid in ruin before my eyes. I was shocked and in disbelief, I started to cry as I took in the devastation.
I could see that bright glowing embers were still brightly lit in the ground, glowing like orange and red LED lights. It was hard to fathom the destruction and chaos that occurred once the fire started. It spread so quickly it was hard to do anything. People were lucky to escape. The hillside leading up to the Pittock Mansion was nothing but burnt stumps and homes. Tri-Met busses were burned, one was left off to the side of the road.
You could see a large dark thunderstorm had formed to the north, rain would help, but what about the landslides and flooding that would occur? Occasional hurricane fires formed, igniting the fire even more. The bridges going up to N.W. Cornell had been destroyed, sadly cars drove off the road in not knowing that the bridges were no longer there. Dense thick smoke from the fire caused people not to see the roadside. The elegant homes and estates went up quickly, the fire spread within minutes. It spread feeding off the old wooden structures. Alarms could be heard and off in the distance, cars caught fire as the fire burned brightly into the night. It was hard to see because of the thick black, gray nauseating menacing smog. My eyes started to water and get irritated. You could hear airplanes circling overhead.
I reached the front lawn of the Pittock Mansion. It gave me a perfect view of the fires intensity and where it was heading. Burnt fixtures on the mansion laid melted on the ground. The mansion was nothing but rubble, the fire took out the beloved Tea House. I looked to the west and could see in disbelief that the fire had destroyed what looked like the entire forest looking out towards the St. John’s Bridge.
Large black curly thick, choking smoke thickened the air. Ashes fell like snow. Death permeated the air. I looked down into the Industrial Section as plumes of white smoke and fire from broken gas lines poured toxic fumes into the air. Sirens blared and alarms could be heard. Explosions could be heard, people screaming in the far distance. The thick smoke covered the sky as a deep smog choked the city. Black, burned, charcoaled remains of buildings could be seen. Skeletons they were. Fire trucks dotted N.W. Naito Park Way as their water cannons shot streams of water at flames approach the Lovejoy viaduct.
The fire was heading south toward N.W. Burnside, I ran down Wildwood Trail, ran over the footbridge and headed up towards the newly built reservoir in Washington Park, I thought that it would be safe there. It would be a safe place to go, I could always jump in the water if I had too.
Unfortunately, the fire was jumping fire lines down off NW. Burnside. Some people didn’t have a chance. Homes, and fine stately mansions were destroyed. I fled to the reservoir in Washington Park as quickly as I could. Fire trucks formed and a wall of firefighters blasted the flames with water as it engulfed Washington Park, including the world-famous Rose Gardens. The fire lit the sky, thankfully the fire was contained at this point. A Fireline was formed, and the fire was stopped at the new reservoir. Several stoplights were out, several car crashes occurred. Innocent people were killed.
The fire started on a Friday night, early in the morning on the following Saturday. Unexpected and surprising it was and the veracity astounded people. Traffic caused serious problems as the flames grew, and people panicked. Within minutes the fire spread, faster than anyone could imagine. Huge Hurricane Fires, fires that ran so hot, combined with the winds of nearly 90 miles an hour caused the fire to spread through the dry fields and trees.
Small little tornadoes appeared, whipping the fire in different directions. Homes went up, oil containers and tankers exploded off in the distance, one by one the homes went up in flames, almost ten thousand people displaced. Makeshift centers were set up in areas that hadn’t been harmed by the fire. Charred dead bodies were taken to Providence Park and lined up on the soccer field. Red Cross set up headquarters there.
The fire raced through the hillsides, and engulfed anything that stood in its way, it raced up Balch Creek and ran up to N.W. Skyline. It raced up to the Willamette Stone where it finally stopped. Gas lines blew up along fashionable N.W. Portland’s beloved 23rd Avenue. Highways 26 and 30 were closed.
It had started and ignited in a homeless camp off N.W. Saltzman eyewitnesses say, up off Highway 30, it was August, we had hot droughts leading into this fire that night. Homeless camps congregated into the park; they had lived there for years. Drunk and loud and screamin’ in the night, yellin’ and a cussin’, suddenly things got out of hand. Over several 100-degree days caused a perfect storm.
I would have thought this might be expected to occur, as I had said the warning signs were there. Many people ignored the notion that a deadly fire like this would ever happen in Forest Park. I had covered about four miles I figured by then. I had my cell phone, but service was down. The Portland Police and Portland Fire Departments set up posts along the reservoir. The fire continued to burn towards the north section of Washington Park. I pretty much know the trails, fire lanes and streams that meander through the park. For years I ran on the trails and biked in the park.
The homeless camps were located off near Highway 30, garbage was lying about, near the oil refineries located in the Industrial Section of N.W. Portland. The small neighborhood and the Plaid Pantry located at the intersection went up in seconds as traffic jams on Highway 30 occurred.
Seems a fight broke in the homeless camp between some of the homeless folk, a fight over meth, a man was thrown in a campfire and ran into the brush. He ignited the brush and flames shot up through the canyons, winds from the N.E. helped lead the fire up towards N.W. Skyline and out past N.W. Germantown Road. The fire jumped fire lines set off N.W. Skyline, finally stopped on the west side near Cornelius Pass Road, it had gone into farmland off N.W. Germantown Road. The fields along with dying winds helped save that section as to where the fire spread.
The huge, tall T.V. towers off N.W. Skyline crumbled to the ground. It was a horrific site as the large television towers came toppling down. Power wires attached the towers sparked other fires. The fire stopped near Mt. Calvary Cemetery. N.W. Burnside was closed, trees had come down covering the roads, a few cars were trapped going into the Burnside Tunnel. Television and power along with internet service were cut off. People were trapped. The city was virtually brought to its knees. Gridlock occurred.
The fire continued to grow and went and burned-out PGE power wires that were in the park and jumped Highway 30 while it headed to the north, burning those old homes along the way to Linton, and set fire to oil refineries and warehouses. Some people tried to blame PGE for the fire. The fire moved viciously toward N.W. Portland, racing through the east section of Forest Park, engulfing homes going up through Willamette Heights and Kings Heights. Running up to the Pittock Mansion. All the homes on the hillside of King’s heights went up in flames. The intensity of the fire spread to the historic mansion.
Hundreds of homes were destroyed, huge traffic jams on N.W. 23rd and N.W. Vaughn formed, out to Highway 30 causing horrific fires, cars blew up and ignited homes going through the Nob Hill. The Audubon Society was destroyed along with a section of Washington Park as the fire spread south.
The dams in Balch Creek burned, causing flooding into N.W. Wilson. People panicked. Cars and homes were burned beyond recognition. Homes were robbed, vandals stole food and held people at gunpoint, a panic occurred. Banks were looted and people were shot on sight by the Militia called in. Patrols were formed. People rioted for two weeks. The mayor got attacked and had to use his bear spray repellent and used a baseball bat to drive some of the rioters away.
The fire continued to ravage N.W. Portland, homes on N.W. Westover were destroyed, crews set up fire walls, the fire jumped over N.W. Cornell and traveled south to the Pittock Mansion, the fire ripped through the mansion, burning everything in its way. Firefighters set up a fire line on N.W. Burnside, but sadly the fire kept spreading up through Washington Park, thankfully firefighters and volunteers used the water from the new reservoir to stop the fire from spreading to the south and going down S.W. Jefferson. Several fire fighters were killed in the line of duty. Large spotlights were set up in allowing light into certain sections of the neighborhood.
The downtown section of Portland was spared thankfully, the fire went on for more than a week before it was fully contained. It smoldered for weeks afterwards. Soot and the smell of smoke permeated the air as the west hillside of Portland burnt to the ground. Trees, including old growth was burned as far as the eye could see. Real Estate agents called people looking to see if owners would want to sell their land. A moratorium not allowing brokers to offer to buy land was put in place. Willamette Heights was demolished. Bright red embers glowed at night through the fire as people watched from the east side of the Willamette. Boats dotted the Willamette in trying to get a look at the towering flames.
The orange glow at night continued to burn and could be seen constantly in the days to come, the spectacular, unbelievable visual spectacle went on for almost a week before the fire could be contained. The night sky illuminated the city. Exhausted fire fighters fought for days on end to help contain the spreading monster. Huge planes flew into the Willamette River to get water to drop on the fire. Helicopters flew in and tried to dose the fire with water as well.
Fire departments from Multnomah County, Washington County and Clackamas County rushed to help contain the blaze. The fire went into the Pear District, scorching a small section, the section near Albers Mill. The fire was too large, and people were burned beyond recognition. The fire burnt the staircase up to the Broadway Bridge, thankfully the bridge was spared. Volunteers tried to help contain the fire. Any able-bodied person was asked to help.
Large oil containers exploded in the Industrial Section of N.W. Portland. Huge old wooden warehouses went up like kindling. To the north the Willamette River stopped the fire from spreading. All the forest along Highway 30 was destroyed. The trees leading up to the St. John’s Bridge burned a path all the way to Linton. The Scappose and St. Helen’s Fire Department helped contain the fire at Linton.
The St. Johns Bridge suffered severe structural damage on the south side of the historic bridge from the intensity of the heat. Metal beams melted and warped from the heat. The intensity of the heat had melted the structural support and blew out the electrical system, cars plunged into the Willamette as they drove south on the bridge heading towards the park.
It was a brutal fire, leaving the park a disaster area, leaving dark rubble and cinders.
Authorities said approximately 230 people died in the colossal fire. They figured at this point, with another 200 or so missing. People left to parish without any warning, several families that lived on N.W. Thurman and N.W. Gordon were asleep when the flames ravaged the neighborhood, they were some of the hardest hit. No warning system was set up in the neighborhood in case of a fire started with this magnitude. At least fifty homes in this section went up.
The Skyline Tavern burnt to the ground, homes up on N.W. Skyline and N.W. Thompson Road went up. The developments to the west of N.W. Skyline went up. Farms off N.W. Skyline had livestock run loose. The Thurman Bridge caught on fire, bringing the bridge to falling off its foundation and tumbling to the ground below. People were hit by the wreckage. The damn on Balch Creek caught on fire and caused a terrible flood. Large boulders came tumbling down hillsides. It was devastating. Small landslides formed and caused more damage.
I looked over the remains of what was once the largest city park in the United States. Crows flew in the air and squawked at the site. Deer and other animals were seen running through N.W. Portland, being forced from their habitat. Large flocks of birds could be seen racing through the air. It was maddening and heartbreaking to view.
The view from where I stood unfortunately showed me where the unkind fire had spread, it didn’t leave anything in its way. N.W. 23rd was left in shambles, random storefronts were wiped off the map. Cars and busses left smoldering as packs of dogs roamed through the rubble. Sparks flew in the air. Gangs and homeless people from the inner city went on a rampage looting shops and homes.
Local news helicopters with television news crews covered the event. A crash occurred when two helicopters collided in mid air. Homeless people took over an abandoned home. Most of the homes left standing were looted. Condominiums went up one by one. The high-density development is where most people died from the fire. Several of the fires off N.W. 21st. brought the new condominium developments to come down. The Governor declared a state of emergency. The fire had erupted sewer lines, caused overloads to electrical grids, took out power lines located in the park and gas stations exploded in the night.
The city was in shock as the once historic park smoldered. Large bulldozers and dump trucks tried to clear roads. Chainsaws roared as work crews fought through the night. Traffic was brought to a standstill. Flooding occurred inside the park, small dams had burnt, and most habitat was destroyed.
As I walked to get a better view, I could see the remains of Wildwood Trail to the west and the unfortunately found out that the Audubon Society had gone up in the flames, I could see where the fire went up N.W. 53rd and out N.W. Thompson Road. Refineries and Big Tanker Trucks burned in the rubble at N.W. Industrial. Reports came in over the radios with the Fire Department, reports of what had happened with this devastating fire.
Montgomery Park was no longer standing, all the windows had been blown out and the building went up in a few days, it came tumbling to the ground. Shops along N.W. Vaughn were eaten alive by the fire. The fire swept east toward the Pearl and took a few condos with it. The fire line at the Willamette River stopped the fire. People were left stranded. Hundreds of homes were left burning.
I knew my apartment and all its belongings went up in the fire. Fortunately, volunteers handed out food to eat and some coffee. I didn’t know where to go. Makeshift camps were set up. I stayed in one that night located close to the reservoir. I didn’t get much sleep.
The next morning, I got up and took Wildwood Trail north back up to the Pittock Mansion and I decided to go back down the old service road, walked down through upper Kings Heights. I took the stairways down through the hillside.
The mansions and stately palatial homes that were built in this historic neighborhood were destroyed. I continued to take the stairs down to N.W. Aspen. Trees and cumbersome branches stood in my way as I weaved through the rubble. Live electrical wires cracked in the dense smoke. I could see that Chapman Grade School had been demolished, the chimney had tumbled to the ground. Wallace Park was just a cinder field. Apartments and historical homes were left in ruins in the surrounding area.
Light rail lines were destroyed, people had fled the fire and jumped in the Willamette River to avoid the flames. River Patrol boats roamed the river looking for survivors and bright lights scowered the long dark river looking for survivors. The foundations on the south side of the Fremont Bridge were destroyed. Some people were seen set on fire, screaming, and causing other fires to spread. Babies cried and people were left homeless. The Fremont bridge was closed until engineer crews could access the damage. The Port of Portland terminals in N.W. Portland that run west towards the St. John’s Bridge were damaged as cargo went up in flames. The National Guard was brought in to contain crowds that had gathered. People were scrambling to get food and water. Fred Meyer’s was looted, police arrived and shot and killed several people in the altercation that followed.
Police Helicopters patrolled at night, flashing large bright lights that surveyed the ground, peering out from the smoke and clouds. crews were formed looking for survivors and looters. K-9 patrols were left sniffing for the dead. Water mains burst, and sewers overflowed, and electrical terminals exploded and popped in the night. Pedestrian bridges were damaged. Car alarms blared in the abandoned cars that were left in the fires path. Air quality was recorded during the fire, unfortunately the air quality was some of the worst in the world. Trees smoldered and burned. The hospitals were overflowed. Air quality caused people to have serious respiratory problems. Several people were burned alive.
I hiked east down through N.W. Burnside; twisting through the wreckage that lied in front of me. I could see smoldering homes as I approached N.W. 23rd. The fire lines stopped the fire from spreading up S.W. Vista. The fire to the south was contained near Highway 26. The fire was stopped at that point.
The fire unfortunately made its way up through the Arboretum and engulfed the Oregon Zoo, several animals ran wild, reports of lions roaming the west hills were reported and eventually a hiker was attacked and killed by one of the lions. An elephant was seen down near what remained of the Rose Gardens. The Arboretum was destroyed. Thankfully it stopped at the Highway. Several animals couldn’t escape and were burned beyond recognition.
The Mayor and City Council declared ordinances and curfews were given. People couldn’t go out at night. Shops were ransacked, restaurants and bars were destroyed. Windows were broken. It was nearly impossible to drive anywhere that the fire touched. Bodies were gathered and kept at Friendly House Community Center, they piled up chard, unrecognizable bodies in the small gym.
N.W. Germantown road had burned, cars left in the road where people had jumped off the side of the road to escape the massive blaze. Warehouses were destroyed, lift trucks and heavy equipment burned and smoldered, the rail lines in the Industrial section were destroyed. The smell of burnt rubber drifted through the air. The fires had locked the city of Portland down. Loudspeakers could be heard, warning people of the pending destruction.
A large container ship caught fire down near the Waterfront, off N.W. Naito Park way, near Terminal 3. The lines were cut, and tugboats gathered to help put out the fire. The hillside was left black as far as the eye could see going to the west. The fire lines in Forest Park proved to be little help as the fire engulfed two fire trucks off N.W. Leif Erickson. Bridges and overpasses were destroyed.
Federal help came eventually, the destruction would take years to restore. Old sea captain homes off N.W. 18th burned down, causing large fires to sweep near Highway I-405. The painted ladies on N.W. Hoyt burned to the ground. Luckily for many inhabitants of the Pearl District the fire stopped at the freeway. Cathedral Grade School went up. The fire was contained near N.W. 14th and Burnside. Historic St. Patrick’s Church was destroyed along with several cars and old homes. Homeless camps located under I-403 went up, several people were burned to death.
The constant eerie orange glow from the fires stretched to the west for almost ten miles before being contained at N.W. Cornelius Pass. Underground sewer lines and the old forgotten underground tunnels were used by people to escape. Thankfully the train station wasn’t destroyed. People gathered in some of the parks and community centers. Food was scarce, internet service was hard to find, power lines that ran through Forest Park ignited, and underground cable lines cracked, continually feeding the terrible fire.
The fire went down the west side of N.W. Cornel Road, going down to the neighborhoods that were located west of N.W. Skyline, including Miller Road. Firetrucks and volunteers tried to form fire lines. There was a fear that the fire would go further to the west, thankfully it didn’t.
Homeless camps went up, people were eaten alive. Police sifted through the carnage.
Heroic acts were carried out in saving people from the fire. The light rail on N.W. 23rd was engulfed by the blaze, people were trapped in the passenger cars, St. Vincent’s Hospital had severe damage as people had to be evacuated. Ambulances got caught in traffic and the fire ate anything in its way. The sky was eerie, black, and gray and illuminated with orange lights as clouds formed and lightening started to strike again. Lights flashed in the distance.
The water tower in N.W. Portland, located off N.W. Vaughn exploded and came crashing down on ESCO workers as they scrambled to not get hit from the metal and steel. Waterlines were shattered, streams were engulfed in the park, electricity was cut to most of the west side of Portland. Makeshift hospitals were set up in parks and parking lots. The National Guard patrolled at night.
Black soot was found on most of the lawns. Ash and burning ember flew everywhere, it looked like a savage snowstorm. Store windows were shattered as the fire spread west to I-405. It missed some sections of the neighborhood thankfully. The scared black hills laid in front of everyone to see. People stood in disbelief; chaos occurred as looters went on a rampage. Some people jumped to their death from burning buildings. People huddled to hear the latest news. Television and news reporters tried to make their way through the twisted streets to get a better view of the carnage. The fact that electrical grids went down people couldn’t get internet or T.V. news or for that matter charge their phones.
As I wondered through the ruble, I hiked up off N.W. Burnside and found a few sidewalks and trails that took me south toward S.W. Vista. I hiked off S.W. Montgomery and knocked on the door of an old friend of mine. Thankfully he was home an took me in, I gasped, telling him of how my apartment had gone up in flames. I tried to fathom what I had just seen. I took notes, having recorded the tragic destruction. My kind friend offered to take me in until I could figure out what to do next.
City leaders were scorned for not listening to the wise elders, the wise Oregon natives that lived in the hillside for years, the ones who knew and warned people of what could happen. They had warned people, the city officials didn’t listen. Fingers were pointed, fights broke out in City Hall, a mass riot broke out. The money and profit were more important than the people. In the weeks to come, several city officials were found negligent and at fault in not having warning systems set up in the neighborhoods that boarded the park. It was a horrific fire, one that will always be remembered.
I wrote this story after what happened in Lahaina, Hawaii just a week ago. Horrific it was. I wanted to remind people here in Portland about what could very well happen here. This story isn’t that far-fetched. This is a dark story and I wanted to shock people into to the reality of what we as a city may have to face one day.
I sat on the board with “Friends of Forest Park” back in the early 2000’s. I sat on the board for two years. Our main goal back then was to buy and preserve land boarding the beloved park. To help preserve areas of Forest Park. A noble thought.
Seriously folks if you don’t think something like this could happen that’s what frightens me. I was hoping to shock people with fictitious instances that could truly happen, especially if we take things for granted.