|(Editor’s note: This story was updated on Dec. 30 with more details on the two fires with comments from the Corvallis Fire Department and city of Corvallis officials).|
Philomath Fire & Rescue assisted the neighboring Corvallis Fire Department on Tuesday evening on separate responses to fires involving a house at 857 Northwest Tyler Avenue and a homeless encampment near Pioneer Park, officials said.
The first report of the structure fire at the corner of Ninth Street and Tyler Avenue came in around 6 p.m., with Corvallis firefighters finding flames shooting up from the roof of the home, which had been converted into six apartments.
Patrick Rollens, city of Corvallis public information officer, said the fire appeared to originate in the electrical wiring system in one of the partitioned units.
Philomath headed to CFD’s Station 2 at 6:18 p.m., to provide coverage and was then dispatched to the fire at 6:48 p.m., according to a Fire & Rescue call log. Philomath sent four crew members and an engine to the blaze with Capt. Andy Louden in the role of duty officer. Lt. Lindsay Taylor was at the scene as an engine company officer.
Capt. Rich Saalsaa, public information officer, said Philomath assisted with on-the-ground fire operations at the scene until released to stand-by at CFD’s Station 1. Philomath remained at the downtown station until approximately 10 p.m.
Corvallis Fire worked the Tyler Avenue residential fire until after 11 p.m.
“Fire watch crews remained at the residence overnight,” Rollens said. “In the morning they identified some smoldering hot spots that needed to be addressed.”
Rollens added that all six apartments were no longer habitable for those residents. Benton County property tax records list the owner as Michelle Schoning. The Corvallis Fire Department and the city’s Development Services Division are continuing to investigate the cause of the fire.
Philomath Fire & Rescue Chief Tom Miller was also standing by at CFD’s Station 1 to help manage other calls in Corvallis as a chief officer, Saalsaa added. Meanwhile, Saalsaa stayed at the home base to cover the Philomath Fire District while the chief was in Corvallis.
Adair Fire & Rescue, Albany Fire Department and Monroe Rural Fire Protection District also assisted at the Tyler and Ninth fire.
“We’re grateful for the mutual aid that arrived quickly from our neighboring agencies to help us fight this fire and respond to other calls throughout the community,” Corvallis Fire Chief Ben Janes said.
Homeless encampment fire
The other fire involved exploding propane tanks and occurred just after 7 p.m. Tuesday in a homeless encampment near Pioneer Park. Philomath responded at 7:06 p.m. with another engine and three volunteers to help extinguish the fire.
“At that time, most of CFD’s active units were responding to the fire on Northwest Tyler Avenue, so we relied on units from our neighboring agencies, provided through mutual aid, to fight the fire in Pioneer Park,” Rollens said. “We had an engine from Philomath, an engine from Albany Fire, and an ambulance from Albany Fire, in addition to a CFD command unit coordinating the response.”
Saalsaa said up to six propane tanks were involved, which led to a sizable fire. Several tents in the encampment were reportedly destroyed. The location, Rollens said, was difficult to reach with snow and mud making for a challenging response.
“The exact cause of the fire is unknown, but several propane tanks were on fire and had to be extinguished,” Rollens said.
Lt. Viktor Bovbjerg served as Philomath’s engine company officer.
“The three different agencies came together seamlessly to respond to this incident,” Rollens said. “It didn’t matter which patch you were wearing on your sleeve. Our partners in Philomath and Albany provided prompt and courageous assistance as soon as the call for help went out.”
One person who lived in the camp suffered serious burns and was transported by Albany Fire ambulance to Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center, Saalsaa said. Rollens said the city could not comment about the person’s condition or any treatment received at the hospital.
The response wrapped up at 8:18 p.m.
“We’ve responded to a number of campsite fires over the last year or two,” Rollens said. “The most dangerous was in July 2020, in this same area, during the height of fire season. We encourage all community members to be extremely careful using propane tanks, particularly when using them outdoors in a campsite setting.”
In addition to those two responses, Philomath Fire & Rescue also was called out twice while covering for Corvallis. Both were medical calls — one at 7:31 p.m. at an apartment complex on Grand Oaks Drive and the other at 8:31 p.m. at an assisted living facility on Hollyhock Circle.
Saalsaa said the Philomath district maintained its own coverage during the calls in Corvallis with a crew of five volunteers.
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