Staying safe at
the scene

Scene safety is very important to quickly and safely put out fires. LGFD would like to remind people:

• To not drive over fire hoses. They are not made to be driven over and will become damaged. Doing so violates Oregon law, and can hinder the ability for firefighters to put the flames out.

• If you must go to a scene to check your property, though it is not advised, check in before entering the fire scene. Wandering around the scene can be a distraction and it is hard to distinguish you from potential victims.

The La Grande Fire and Rural Fire departments responded to a fire at Bearco Storage Units about 7 a.m. this morning. The fire began in a stored camp trailer and spread to a second trailer and an RV, causing smoke and water damage to the adjacent El Erradero Mexican Restaurant. No major injuries were reported at the scene, and the fire was put out within an hour of the first engine arriving.

“Our concern was getting the fire out (and) minimizing damage to the restaurant,” Captain Robbert Tibbetts of the La Grande Fire Department said. “First though is making sure everyone is alive and out. Then property conservation and minimizing damage to buildings as much as possible.”

Four people were sleeping in a tent near the camper where the fire started. They included Casey McCall of La Grande and Jami Rice of Pendleton. Rice said she was awakened b y a dog barking and the sound of a window popping out. McCall also heard a popping sound. He said as he and his friends were racing away from the tent they heard explosions.

Several explosions occurred after the fire started. Tibbetts said that these were propane tanks that burst.

Both McCall and Rice said they feel lucky to have gotten away safely.

Initially, there was a suspicion of arson, but after investigation the LGFD determined the blaze began when a candle caught a curtain on fire, according to Tibbetts.

The Bearco Business Park, where the storage facility is located, is managed by Monty McIntosh, who said the response time of the La Grande Fire Department made a big difference.

“It was amazing. They were here instantly,” he said.

The camper in which the fire started is owned by McCall’s mother’s boyfriend, Jessie Showden, who was sleeping in it at the time. Showden jumped out of the window to escape the fire and sustained minor injuries to his hand. He was cared for by medics on the scene.

McIntosh said Showden should not have been sleeping in the camper. While there is no power for the campers in the facility, McIntosh said there have been issues with transients breaking in and sleeping in the trailers.

“They come back when I’m not here at night and leave in the morning,”
McIntosh said. “We have tried to get them out but they won’t leave.”

According to Tibbetts, the other camping trailer that caught fire had people in it as well, and they escaped the flames unharmed.

The building behind the campers, the El Erradero, suffered some smoke and water damage as a result of the blaze, Tibbetts said. The restaurant is likely to remain closed for the day, if not longer.

Jacob Chance, of La Grande, was getting off work nearby when he heard about the flames. His 32-foot RV was destroyed in the fire. Chance also stores other property at the facility, including cars, a pickup and another camper, and he said he is concerned about smoke damage.

“I had just gotten off work and everyone was saying there was a fire (on Bearco Loop) and I wanted to make sure. As soon as I noticed where the flames were, I was like, ‘Oh, shoot,’” Chase said.

The RV that was destroyed was not insured and Chase said he is eager to find out the cause of the flames.