Investigation into Massive Mt. Angel Fire Fails to Determine Cause

Officials say an investigation into a massive fire last fall that destroyed a historic granary in downtown Mt. Angel and four businesses it contained could not determine a cause for the blaze, which caused more than $5 million in estimated damages.

The four-alarm fire in October 2021 engulfed The Blackbird Granary, an antique business hosting over 40 vendors; KP’s Harvest Time Products, Wood Pellet Products and Hidden Bed of Oregon.

The granary had previously been an outlet for Wilco Farm Stores. The early morning blaze consumed more than 1 million gallons of water and required the efforts of 120 firefighters and 35 trucks from seven nearby fire districts to bring under control.

The investigation, which closed earlier this year, did reveal the origin of the fire was at the lower level of a tower structure. But, due to the extensive damage, investigators could not determine what started the fire.

Mt. Angel Fire Chief Jim Trierweiler said there were “little clues to go on” in determining the cause.

File photo.

“This was a very big investigation with collaboration of a half a dozen investigators both from public and private sectors working on the cause,” Trierweiler said in an email to the Statesman-Journal.

“Ultimately, a fire cause needs to be 100% factual with evidence to back it up. There was not supporting evidence to get to the 100% level in this case.”

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.

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