SISTERS, Ore. - (Update with fire district info, cause under investigation)
Nearly 24 hours after arriving on scene, firefighters finished Monday afternoon putting out the last embers of a stubborn fire that tore through the center of a 17,000-square-foot, three-story home valued at $3.5 million in the Plainview area east of Sisters.
The Cloverdale Rural Fire District was dispatched around 3:30 p.m. Sunday to the reported structure fire at 17655 Varco Road and the first crews arrived to find heavy fire conditions in the center of the 22-year-old home, said Capt. Clint Weaver.
Fire Chief Thad Olsen, responding from an earlier medical call, quickly began calling for more resources upon seeing the smoke column, Weaver said. They included a strike team of water tenders from Deschutes and Jefferson counties, due to the remote nature of the home from water sources.
Fire units were called from Sisters-Camp Sherman, Black Butte Ranch, Bend, Redmond, Crooked River Ranch, Jefferson County, Sunriver and Warm Springs. Also on hand were personnel from Central Electric Cooperative, the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office, Black Butte Ranch police and the county roads and building departments.
All residents of the home were evacuated before firefighters arrived, and all of the family’s pets were safely removed from the home.
One family member suffered minor burns and was treated at the scene, and no firefighters were hurt, Weaver said.
The cause of the fire was under investigation Monday by the Cloverdale Fire District and the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office.
Within minutes of the first fire units’ arrival Sunday afternoon, the flames spread from the first floor into the second floor and into the attic, venting through the roof, Weaver said.
The home is composed of lightweight engineered wood construction, officials said. Due to the construction style and components, firefighters encountered numerous “hidden pockets of fire in the floors, attic and interior walls,” Weaver said in a news release.
“Efforts to fight the fire from the interior of the building were unsuccessful, in part due to a collapse of the roof, which fell through both upper stories and into the basement,” Weaver wrote. “The collapse prevented firefighters from accessing the fire in the basement.”
The home had a sprinkler system, Weaver told NewsChannel 21. “We don’t know what happened yet," he said. "We don’t know if they (the sprinklers) were triggered or if they were overwhelmed by the fire.”
At first, fire crews had to ferry water from two fire hydrants. one about a mile away, in the Sun Mountain Water District, and another four miles away. at Camp Polk Road and Highway 126, at the Aspen Lakes Golf Course, Weaver said.
Fortunately, the Oregon Department of Forestry was “a big help,” he said, when they brought in a trailer-mounted portable pump and set it up to draw water from an irrigation pond on the property. After that, Weaver said, “we were able to dismiss about half of the water tenders” called in from other agencies.
A county structural engineer assessed the building and declared it to be unsafe for fire crews to enter the house, due to the potential for further collapse, Weaver said. As a result, firefighters fought the blaze from the outside, an effort that lasted into Monday afternoon.
With the help of heavy equipment from the county road department and Robinson-Owens construction, crews were able to extinguish the last of the hidden fire by Monday afternoon. Weaver said the last crews pulled out about 22 hours after the first ones arrived.
Fire Chief Thad Olsen could provide no estimate of damage, and Weaver said while there was “major damage,” it was “not throughout the entire building,” but mainly in the center of the large home.
Olsen expressed “his gratitude for all the assistance provided by our allied agencies during this incident,” which Weaver said was one of the largest firefighting efforts in the rural district in several years.
Officials said the residents smelled smoke Sunday afternoon, evacuated and called 911,
Sheriff's Sgt. Nathan Garibay said a total of 55 firefighters and 22 pieces of fire apparatus were called to the scene, including 10 water tenders. Oregon State Police also assisted in the operation.
By about 8 p.m., crews reported the fire was 90 percent contained.
Deschutes County property tax records indicate the 17,277-square-foot home was built in 1995.