A Corvallis man found deceased while his house burned Monday has been ruled an apparent suicide, the Benton County Sheriff’s Office reported.
Firefighters responded at 11:50 a.m. Oct. 2 to a smoke investigation in the 3200 block of Northwest Ponderosa Avenue to find a residence on fire.
“When firefighters entered the home to attack the fire and perform a search, they encountered an occupant inside the structure,” the Corvallis Fire Department said through a news release, the man later identified by BCSO as 73-year-old Steven Payne. “Firefighters quickly removed the occupant from the structure and immediately performed an evaluation. It was determined that the occupant was deceased due to injuries not related to the fire.”
The Corvallis Fire Department called for additional resources with Philomath Fire and Rescue among those responding. Philomath sent an engine company with three personnel and Fire Chief Chancy Ferguson to Corvallis Fire Station No. 1 on Northwest Harrison Boulevard to provide coverage.
“They ended up responding to four incidents in the city during that time,” Philomath Fire and Rescue Deputy Fire Chief Rich Saalsaa said. “Chief Ferguson assisted in strategic coverage planning for CFD to provide response coverage including units from Monroe Fire, Adair Fire, Albany Fire and Polk County Fire. “There were two other calls in the city beyond the four that we handled.
“We had volunteers respond to our Station 201 to help with covering calls in our district at the same time,” Saalsaa added.
Meanwhile, back at the scene of the fire in Corvallis, a portion of the home’s roof collapsed at one point to render the residence unstable. Firefighters searched the house multiple times to ensure that there were no additional occupants.
“Based on deteriorating safety conditions inside the house, firefighters were withdrawn and the decision was made to allow the fire to burn itself out,” Corvallis Fire said in its release. “Firefighters adopted a defensive firefighting strategy focused on protecting nearby vegetation to limit the fire’s spread.”
Benton County Public Works operators used heavy equipment to assist firefighters by moving debris and uncovering smoldering hot spots located deep in the foundation, Corvallis Fire said. Firefighters remained at the scene until late in the morning Tuesday monitoring hot spots and working to fully extinguish the fire. Overall, the operation took nearly 24 hours.
BCSO said the case remains under investigation and anyone with additional information regarding the incident is encouraged to contact BCSO Det. Brian Horn at email@example.com or 541-760-4640.
Corvallis Fire thanked agencies that helped at the scene, including BCSO, Corvallis Police Department and the Benton County Medical Examiner. CFD also thanked mutual aid partners Adair Fire, Philomath Fire and Rescue, Polk County Fire District No. 1, Albany Fire, Monroe Fire, Lebanon Fire and Lane Fire Authority for stepping in to provide coverage for multiple emergency calls in Corvallis and the rural district.
BCSO expressed appreciation for assistance from the Corvallis Fire Department, Corvallis Police Department, Benton County Public Works, Consumers Power Inc., and Northwest Natural Gas for their assistance.