Rapid LFD response heads off fire at former Champion Mill

An “unattended” warming fire that got out of control is being blamed for damaging the last structure at the site of the former Champion Mill on Burdell Boulevard, which burned Monday, Nov. 11.

According to the Lebanon Fire District, a driver traveling on Santiam Highway Monday afternoon noticed light smoke coming from a commercial building on Burdell Boulevard and dialed 911 to report the incident at 2:50 p.m.

Firefighters responded to the former Champion Mill site behind Walgreens where the first arriving unit reported heavy smoke from the lone 8,500-square-foot commercial structure remaining on the old mill property, according to the LFD.

Due to the potential for a large-scale fire, the incident commander called for a second alarm to bring additional resources to the scene and to cover the Lebanon Fire District while on-duty crews battled the fire. Fire crews were able to make a rapid, aggressive attack on the fire from the exterior of the structure, which stopped the blaze in its tracks and saved the structure, according to an LFD statement.  Damage was limited to some interior structural components with some heat and smoke damage to the metal structure.

The property is believed to have been recently remitted to Linn County due to unpaid taxes, according to the LFD.

Firefighters had to cut locks from large bay doors to make access to the structure while additional crews used powerful circular saws to cut access holes in the metal structure and direct water streams on the fire burning inside. The fire district’s new ladder truck was used to combat the fire as well. Crews extended the ladder into the structure from ground level where they could then use the remote nozzle to direct fire streams upwards towards the ceiling where heavy fire had built. Once the main body of fire was knocked down, crews entered the structure with hoses to finish extinguishing the fire and mop up remaining hot spots, according to the statement.

The Lebanon Fire Investigation Team was activated and four fire investigators remained on scene to determine the cause and origin of the fire.

Crews shoot water into the building after cutting a hole in the wall to gain access.

According to Lebanon Fire Marshal Jason Bolen, investigators were able to determine the area of origin of the fire but extensive damage from both fire and suppression efforts prevented investigators from singling out a specific cause. There were signs of forced entry into the structure through a wall panel, and the building was known to the Lebanon Police Department to be a home to transients.

“Based on the information gathered from our investigation it is possible that this fire was caused by a warming fire which was either left unattended and spread or simply got out of control.” Bolen said. “We were unable to determine a credible source of ignition, which unfortunately means that the cause of this fire will remain undetermined unless someone comes forward with additional information.”

Lebanon firefighters were assisted on scene by the Sweet Home Fire & Ambulance District and the Albany Fire Department. Officers from the Lebanon Police Department also assisted on scene.

Firefighters from the Scio Fire District stood by at Station 31 and the Albany Fire Department provided a medic unit for district coverage.

Fire crews had the blaze under control in about an hour and were on scene for three hours. There were no injuries to firefighters or civilians, according to the LFD.