One family has lost its house and most of its possessions after a fire ravaged its Sunset Drive home in La Grande late Thursday night.
La Grande Rural Fire Chief Larry Wooldridge was the first to arrive at 304 Sunset Drive. He said the fire had fully engulfed the structure by the time he got there. The fire was reported at 10:27 p.m., with La Grande Rural and La Grande Fire Department responding to the blaze.
Officials say the fire originated in the family’s shop, attached to the home, but it’s unknown what started the fire, which also spread to a small grass field behind the garage.
Robert Kleng, who owns the home with his wife and two small children, said he was reading to his son in bed when he heard noises outside.
“I smelled smoke and saw that it was (in) my garage,” he said. “I had a fire extinguisher and tried that for about two seconds, when I realized it was lost.”
Jennifer and Chelsea Gentleman, a mother and daughter, who live next door to the Klengs, became aware of the fire just as the fire departments started showing up.
“I saw red through my window curtains,” Chelsea said.
Jennifer, who works in the mailroom at The Observer, said she began spraying water around her home to make sure it didn’t catch fire.
La Grande Fire Department Interim Chief Greg Keller acted as safety officer and Wooldridge took command of the scene. Keller started his new position a week ago and is still acclimating, he said.
Keller said that much of La Grande Fire Department’s staff was called in.
“We called back the city staff and volunteers from their homes to respond to the fire,” he said.
He said the power lines were arcing and popping over the firefighters as they focused on the structure, which was endangering them as well as the neighbors. Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative was notified to turn off the home’s electricity and Avista turned off the gas to the home, Keller said.
Wooldridge said the Imbler Fire Department was called to cover La Grande Rural’s station and the Union Fire Department was requested to assist on a La Grande medical call while the crews were extinguishing the fire.
Kleng seemed in good spirits around midnight and said the family, who will be staying with neighbors, was “OK.”
“(The home) looks pretty close to totaled,” he said.
No one was injured in the blaze, Wooldridge said.
In total, 25 firefighters responded to the blaze. La Grande Rural sent two engines, and La Grande Fire sent one engine, one ladder truck and a brush truck.