On Wednesday, July 19, 2023, an empty, defunct Kmart building in the area of northeast Portland known as Parkrose caught fire, resulting in a large smoke plume which covered several square miles. Burned building debris and soot also covered a large area of Parkrose. The next day, a piece of fire debris from a Parkrose community park was sampled by City Parks and Recreation, and found to consist of approximately 20% asbestos. The report of asbestos in fire debris, and fear that asbestos released from the building during the fire may have been deposited over much of Parkrose residential areas, caused a great concern by local citizens and local and state government agencies.
The Portland Bureau of Emergency Management, Multnomah County Emergency Management, and Oregon Department of Environmental Quality responded to the incident, and on 7/20 ODEQ requested EPA's help in assessing the area and potentially mitigating the affected city areas for asbestos.
On July 21, EPA mobilized an On-Scene Coordinator (OSC) and specialty contract resources (known as START, or Superfund Technical Assessment and Response Team) to the Site to begin assessing the area of impact and conducting sampling or air and fire debris in the community.