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FIRE GUTS COVE HOME
By The Observer
COVE Jeff Poppe and his son, Josh, had only been gone Tuesday morning for about an hour when the fire took off.
Poppe and his son had left their Hidden Valley Road home outside Cove at about 7 a.m. Tuesday, heading for Portland when Luis Salazar, 11, and his friend spotted flames coming from the second-level of the modified A-frame.
It started in that corner there, and then we heard like a crackling sound, and then it started burning everything, Salazar said Tuesday morning from the Miller Orchards pickers camp where he stood and watched firefighters from Cove, Union and the La Grande Rural fire departments control the fire.
Salazar and friends ran down to the Millers cherry warehouse and house, calling for the adults to look and to seek help.
Firefighters were quick to respond and, at first, rushed to be sure the home was empty. It wasnt immediately known at first, Union County Sheriff Steve Oliver said, if Josh, a teen-ager, had gone with Jeff Poppe or not.
Lenae Poppe, who works at Albertsons as a baker, had left at about 5 a.m for work.
Lenae Poppe returned to the home to find that her dog had been trapped in the house and had breathed smoke and was singed, while she was sure her cat had died.
The homes top two levels were gutted by the fire, Cove Fire Chief Sonny Johnson said this morning, but many items the family was concerned about were on the bottom level and protected from water damage by firefighters using drop cloths.
Johnson planned to meet with a representative of the State Fire Marshals office this morning to determine what caused the fire.
About 30 volunteer firefighters from Cove, Union and Island City spent about an hour controlling the fire and then several hours mopping up the smoldering remains, Johnson said.
A porta-pond was set up to supply the hoses with water, and two water tanks from Union and Island City were used and kept refilled.
We had adequate water,
Johnson said, although fire engines had difficulty getting to the home along a narrow driveway. The engines and firefighting equipment was eventually brought across a field from Hidden Valley Road.
Equipment and emergency personnel from the state forestry department and an ambulance were also on hand at the scene.
The Poppe home is situated on the side of a sloping butte, surrounded by fields and grassland, posing a threat of fire escaping into the dry grasses.
Jeff Poppe called and talked to Cove firefighters Tuesday evening, Johnson said, and was told what to expect when he returned.
Poppe is visiting his grandson, the son of Laura and Ron Califf who who born with serious medical complications in June.