SMOKE DAMAGE CLOSES GIFT SHOP

December 03, 2002 12:00 am
HEADED INTO SMOKE: La Grande firefighters prepare to enter Good Things, where a furnace malfunction caused heavy smoke damage to the downtown store Monday morning. The fire department responded to the incident, which closed a portion of Adams Avenue to traffic, with six vehicles and 16 firefighters. (The Observer/PHIL BULLOCK).
HEADED INTO SMOKE: La Grande firefighters prepare to enter Good Things, where a furnace malfunction caused heavy smoke damage to the downtown store Monday morning. The fire department responded to the incident, which closed a portion of Adams Avenue to traffic, with six vehicles and 16 firefighters. (The Observer/PHIL BULLOCK).

By T.L. Petersen

Observer Staff Writer

Dealing with what Good Things owner Sharon Dykes called "the realities of retail" was difficult this morning.

For a second day in the midst of a short holiday shopping season, her business in downtown La Grande was closed because of heavy smoke damage caused by an oil furnace malfunction Monday morning.

"I do half my annual income in the month," Dykes said, explaining that she isn't able to predict when her fine gifts and gourmet foods store will reopen. Insurance adjusters were to arrive today to evaluate the losses.

"There was a lot of loss," Dykes said, noting that the problem started in the basement, where the business stores its back-stock inventory — nearly full at this point in December.

Within minutes, the smoke also filled the first-floor showrooms.

Dykes was in her upstairs office working Monday morning before the store opened and all appeared fine, she said. "The girls arrived before 9 and one said she smelled smoke," Dykes said.

When Dykes checked, the smoke was coming from the basement. The employees immediately called 9-1-1. In the time it took to place the call, Dykes said, the store was filling with smoke.

Emergency personnel told Dykes and her staff to evacuate the building at 1301 Adams Avenue.

The fire department responded to the call at 8:52 a.m. and soon had six vehicles and 16 firefighters on the scene.

"They were there instantly," Dykes said, praising the efforts

of the firefighters to control the situation.

"The flue came loose in the basement," said La Grande Fire Department Capt. Pete Price .

Price said the firefighters knew quickly what was happening based on the color and smell of the smoke.

"We could smell diesel," he said, "and we weren't encountering any heat."

Firefighters found the loosened flue pipe venting into the building and set up fans in the basement to push the smoke out and up, and then used the fans to help clear the smoke from the first floor.

"Basically, everything in the store smells like smoke," Price said.

For Dykes, the smell is even worse than just smoke. After touring the store late Monday with a state fire marshal, Dykes said she went home with a "diesel headache" from the smell.

As for the future, "we won't know what we're going to do until the insurance adjusters are through," she said. "At this point, I'm waiting for them."

Her voice still rough from smoke this morning, Dykes tried to see the positive side of the

disaster.

"(The firefighters) did the best they could do," she said. "The smoke was just pouring out" and even seeped into a neighboring business.

But no one was hurt, no fire ever broke out, as it could have if the smoke hadn't been detected so quickly. "It could've been worse," Dykes said.