BARN FIRE CAUSE STILL UNDETERMINED

March 01, 2001 12:00 am
 (The Observer/PHIL BULLOCK).
(The Observer/PHIL BULLOCK).

By T.L. Petersen

Observer Staff Writer

The good news: The missing dog is home, as are the injured firefighters.

The bad news: The financial damages caused by a barn fire Wednesday morning continue to mount.

Firefighters from La Grande and the La Grande Rural fire departments were called to the Richard and Libby Goben residence at 7:46 a.m. Wednesday, arriving to find a 70- to 80-year-old barn engulfed in flames.

Several calls were received at the dispatch center reporting the fire, some from inside and others from outside the city limits.

As it turned out, the fire at 2701 N. Cherry St. was actually in the rural fire departments district, outside the La Grande city limits, but by the time that was determined the city department was already at the fire. Under normal circumstances, only one department responds unless mutual aid is requested by the primary fire fighting department already on the scene.

The Goben barn sits not far behind the familys home, and next to a newer garage. The address is in the northside area that the city tried, but failed, to annex.

The barn burned to the ground within an hour.

Union County Sheriffs Deputy Jim Voelz said late Wednesday that the cause would be officially listed as undetermined.

There had been an electric light in the structure, but no direct evidence indicated that it could have caused the fire.

The Gobens told Voelz that their dogs, kept in a yard beside the barn, began barking at about 3:30 a.m. and had been hard to quiet.

Voelz said he suspects there may have been a smoldering fire in the barn for several hours before the flames erupted, but that is hard to tell.

A family member had left the home and walked past the barn without noticing any fire about 10 minutes before the flames were noticed.

At the fire scene, it was feared that a dog had died in the fire, but the pet returned to the Goben home later in the day, Voelz said.

But as the day ended, the damages were mounting.

The barn was a complete loss, as were the contents stored in it. The contents were estimated to be worth $10,000.

The Gobens also lost a camper trailer valued at about $20,000, and a neighbors camp trailer was also heavily damaged. Both the back side of the Gobens home and the side of their garage/shop were damaged by heat.

The two firefighters, Corky Gilles and Gareld Smith, were burned when superheated air was released by a barn wall collapsing. Both were in full protective gear, said Lois Rieke, including breathing apparatus.

The men were treated and released at Grande Ronde Hospital Wednesday, but wont return to duty for a few days.