ISLAND CITY —A fire that caused damage to the Boise Cascade particleboard plant in Island City on Wednesday could have been much worse.

La Grande Fire Department Chief Les Thomas said a report came in early Wednesday morning of a fire in a Boise Cascade storage facility. The La Grande Rural Fire Department had originally been the only department called to the scene.

Thomas said the LGFD had been out on a medical call when it was requested for assistance. According to scanner traffic, there was not a rush to get to the scene.

Conditions with the fire escalated, though.

The storage facility is about three to four stories tall, Thomas said. The fire was located within the wall at one end of the warehouse behind a large sawdust pile.

“The fire was in the wall but was spreading into the product,” he said. “It eventually moved into the warehouse.”

Thomas said once the LGFD responded to the scene, there were seven people total fighting the blaze. The smoke conditions got worse and the firefighters started to see flames within the warehouse.

The LGFD had responded with its ladder truck and began to pump water onto the fire, but the smoke continued to intensify.

Thomas said he called for more firefighters to respond to the scene, but at the time personnel was limited in the county. As was equipment. He said he had to make a special call for an additional ladder truck from Baker County since LGFD has the only ladder truck in Union County.

The Baker City fire chief said their ladder truck was having general maintenance done on the truck at the time of the call and the pump that Thomas needed was on the floor.

“At that point, the smoking conditions were still getting worse and we needed an additional ladder. So we reached out to Pendleton,” Thomas said.

Pendleton responded with its ladder truck and a group of firefighters to assist on the scene. Baker City sent an engine and a group of their firefighters to the scene as well.

In all, firefighters from
La Grande Rural, La Grande, Elgin, Baker City and Pendleton responded to the Boise Cascade fire. Despite all the help, Thomas said it took
approximately five to six hours for the firefighters to get to the fire itself because the layout of the warehouse was a challenge.

The wood product that was stored in the warehouse had to be moved from the perimeter of the building to the inside so the firefighters could get to the walls where the fire was still smoldering.

Once the second ladder arrived, the firefighters attacked the fire from the front, on the side and straight down, which is eventually how they were able to contain it.

The firefighters also had the added challenge of battling the fire in mid-90 degree heat.

“I was very proud and impressed with everyone,” Thomas said. “I watched several of the different cities go through several different air tanks. If they hadn’t gotten to the fire, it would have spread to the other end of the building.”

Eventually, he said, the firefighters were able to hand over the fire to the Boise Cascade fire response team.

Thomas said the crews were able to start leaving the scene after 2 p.m.