A massive, four-alarm blaze erupted in downtown Mt. Angel early Saturday morning, destroying a former granary and several businesses and pulling in over 100 firefighters from across the region.
The fire was discovered at 12:48 a.m. by Mt. Angel police and arriving fire crews found the buildings already heavily involved in the 200 block of South Main, just south of the community’s charming, Bavarian-themed downtown core.
The Mt. Angel Fire District said in a statement Saturday morning that the four-alarm fire involved 120 firefighters and 35 pieces of equipment from Mt. Angel, Silverton, Woodburn, Hubbard, Monitor, St. Paul and Marion County Fire District 1.
It took an estimated 1 million gallons of water to bring the blaze under control, Mt. Angel officials said. The fire destroyed or damaged four buildings. No injuries were reported.
The site, once an outlet for Wilco Farm Stores, housed The Blackbird Granary, an antique business hosting over 40 vendors; KP’s Harvest Time Products, Wood Pellet Products and Hidden Bed of Oregon, the fire agency reported.
“I am in shock and I have no words,” The Blackbird Granary posted on its Facebook page at 3:24 a.m. “I am heartbroken and praying that all the firefighters are safe.”
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
On Sunday, Mt. Angel Fire Chief Jim Trierweiler said the situation had settled down a bit.
“Logging into Facebook and seeing all these messages and photos is amazing,” the chief wrote. “I can’t begin to express how proud I am of our team and mutual aid partners’ efforts in fighting this historic fire.”
Saturday morning’s response was a massive operation unlike anything Mt. Angel fire officials had seen before — particularly in terms of the amount of water needed. Public Works supplemented the district’s water supply, while firefighters tapped every available well and put 10 water tenders on a constant rotation between Mt. Angel and Silverton.
It was still barely enough.
“We never ran out of water, but we sure tested the system like never before,” Trierweiler said. “It will take some time to figure out exactly how much water was applied to this fire, but I know it exceeds 1 million gallons. I like to think we’re good more often than lucky. But this fire, we were both.”
As bad as the fire was, the chief said it easily could have been far worse. The massive blaze cast embers all over downtown — where they landed on rooftops, gutters and along foundations and could have easily sparked new fires.
Mt. Angel fire personnel fanned out to patrol these areas, even climbing onto rooftops to search out new starts. Another piece of luck was that a train of railroad cars loading with combustible fuel — which had long been parked next to the granary — had finally been moved.
“We were lucky they were gone,” Trierweiler said. “I can’t even begin to imagine how devastating that would have been.”
Crews remained on the scene as of Sunday afternoon and were using heavy equipment to pick apart the piles of debris and stamp out hot spots. Mt. Angel Fire said it will continue to monitor the site for the next few days. Residents should continue to avoid the area, officials said.
Constructed circa 1912, the building was originally the Nicholas Schmaltz and Sons, a general warehouse that sold goods and supplies to the farming community including coal, fence posts, drain tile, shingles, cement, lime, gravel and grain.
The Farmer’s Union Warehouse purchased the property in 1940, adding the 126-foot grain elevator eight years later at a cost of $66,000. It later evolved into a Wilco Farm Coop with a retail store, gas station, fertilizer plant and grass seed cleaning operation. Wilco used the building until 2002.
The structure remained vacant until Tammy Davis opened The Blackbird Granary in 2014. The business was totally destroyed in the Saturday morning blaze. A GoFundMe campaign to support the owners had raised more than $6,000 as of Monday.
Mt. Angel Fire is working with the property owner to clean up and fence the site for public safety purposes.
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