Fire strikes Wallowa

By Kelly Ducote / The Observer July 31, 2013 11:21 am

Firefighters battle a blaze in downtown Wallowa Tuesday evening. The fire destroyed Bon-Ton Tavern and damaged Wheatland Insurance and Grand Central Station next door. (Courtesy photo)
Firefighters battle a blaze in downtown Wallowa Tuesday evening. The fire destroyed Bon-Ton Tavern and damaged Wheatland Insurance and Grand Central Station next door. (Courtesy photo)
 

Main Street blaze leaves one building destroyed and damages two others 

WALLOWA — Bon-Ton Tavern was destroyed overnight in a blaze that kept firefighters at the scene until daylight and has displaced the owners.

Owners of the Main Street bar reported smoke to the Wallowa Fire Department at about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to Fire Chief Tom Baird.

“It started in the basement and there was smoke everywhere,” Baird said. “You couldn’t see anything.”

Bon-Ton owners Roy and Dianne Dornbusch lived in an apartment above the tavern. The bar was closed and they were the only ones in the building, said family friend Debbie Spoelstra. Dianne Dornbusch was taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation but was later released. 

The Dornbuschs are staying with a family friend, Spoelstra said.

Baird said firefighters could not locate the fire through all the smoke.

“We never saw flames go until probably midnight,” he said.

Eventually, they used an excavator from Henderson Logging to open up the building and find the fire. Baird estimated about 40 firefighters from agencies in Wallowa and Union counties aided with the fire.

“We needed help,” Baird said. “We couldn’t have lasted.”

Scott Goff of the state fire marshal’s office was on the scene Wednesday morning, but he said a lot of work needed to be done first before he could begin to investigate.

“There’s not much I’m going to be able to do today,” he said. “Using the backhoe, there’s not a lot to do with the debris.”

Firefighters came from the Joseph, Enterprise and La Grande rural fire departments, along with the
La Grande Fire Department, and equipment from Island City and La Grande rural fire departments was used to help fight the blaze. 

Wallowa firefighters said the fire was eventually extinguished between 7 a.m. to
8 a.m. Wednesday morning.

“It was pretty impressive,” said Wallowa City Councilor Kevin Silveira of the scene he witnessed overnight. “Everybody was amazing.”

While the Bon-Ton Tavern was destroyed, Wheatland Insurance next door also sustained substantial water and smoke damage.

Kathy Duncan-Casper, producer at the insurance office, said they don’t have an estimate on damage but it is “a lot.”

“It’s in the process of being gutted,” she said. Plans are under way already for the roof to be replaced by Casper Roofing.

Grand Central Station, located on the other side of Bon-Ton, also received smoke and water damage. The cause of the fire remains under investigation