Nobody hurt in Wednesday morning fire

By Dick Mason, The Observer October 03, 2013 11:39 am

IMBLER — Judy Wilhelm was stunned late Wednesday morning when she saw her husband’s large workshop engulfed in flames as she drove up to her home at 65335 Hayes Road.

Moments later Wilhelm was incredibly relieved by what she did not see — the truck her husband Henry drives. 

“My first thought was ‘Where is my husband?’” Judy Wilhelm said. “When I saw that his truck wasn’t here, I knew he couldn’t be here.”

Henry Wilhelm, who has indeed away and safe, arrived minutes later to see the sobering sight of his workshop ablaze. The metal workshop, about 45-by-36 feet, was where Wilhelm had brought the past to life by restoring antique cars. The work shed contained two of Wilhem’s most prized possessions, a fully restored 1958 California state police car and a 1970 Dodge Demon he was renovating.

“They were his pride and joy,” Judy Wilhelm said. 

Nobody was injured in the blaze, which crews from the La Grande Rural, Imbler, La Grande, Elgin and Cove fire departments responded to. Crews were at the site of the fire, reported at 10:26 a.m. for 3-1/2 hours.

At least three tender trucks were at the site. The tenders, which carry water, were needed because no fire hydrants were in the vicinity of the Wilhelms home, which is three to four miles southwest of Imbler.

“We’re very grateful for the fire departments,” Judy Wilhelm said. 

Wilhelm said she was also grateful for the help she received from two community members who arrived moments after the fire started, helping Judy Wilhem move equipment and other valuable items away from the fire.

“God bless them, they jumped right it,” Wilhem said.

Smoke from the fire was so voluminous and rose so high that it could be seen seven to eight miles away away on Mt. Glen Road, said Jim Voelz, a photographer and investigator for the La Grande Rural Fire Department.

The contents lost in the workshop fire were valued at about $75,000. The shop was not insured.

The workshop is less than 100 feet from the Wilhelm’s home but the fire never threatened the house because the blaze remained contained in the metal structure.

The cause of the fire is undetermined, Voelz said.