February 27, 2001 11:00 pm

By T.L. Petersen

Observer Staff Writer

In less than an hour, the once red barn was gone and only charred beams remained, consumed by a fire that even experienced firefighters said was intensely hot.

The alarm sounded just before 8 a.m. today. The storage barn behind Libby and Richard Gobens home at 2701 N. Cherry St. had ignited.

Since the home is outside La Grandes city limits, both the La Grande Rural and La Grande fire departments responded. La Grande firefighters arrived first and were able to keep the flames from spreading to a nearby garage and home.

The intense heat caused the vinyl siding on the back side of the Goben home to begin melting and peeling.

The heat also caused first- and second-degree burns to the hands and faces of two La Grande firefighters. They were taken to the hospital for treatment, and their families were being notified this morning, said Lois Rieke, a spokeswoman for the La Grande Fire Department.

Neither firefighter was considered to be in critical condition when they left the scene.

The Gobens recreational vehicle, stored near the barn, and a neighbors recreational vehicle, were also damaged by the heat.

While the Gobens werent keeping livestock in the barn, the family was missing a cat and a pet dog after the fire. The dog had a fenced yard between the house and the barn, and hadnt been found by 9 a.m.

The cause of the blaze was still under investigation at press time. Richard Goben told an on-scene investigator that he didnt know what ignited the barn, but there was electricity to the building.