Roof Collapse Takes Three Oregon Firefighters

An explosive fire at an auto body shop in downtown Coos Bay killed three firefighters on Monday. • Interact: Post/View Condolences


Interact: Post/View Condolences

An explosive fire at an auto body shop in downtown Coos Bay killed three firefighters on Monday when the roof of the building collapsed, authorities said.

Witnesses said they heard a loud explosion and saw the roof of the body shop cave in. Fire investigators returned to the scene Tuesday to try to determine the cause of the blaze.

Two firefighters, 45-year-old Randall Carpenter and 30-year-old Jeffery Edward Common, died when the roof of the building caved in yesterday while they were on the second floor.

Officials identified the third victim as Robert Charles Hanner, 33. He was pronounced dead on arrival at Bay Area Hospital in Coos Bay, nursing supervisor Linda Dufner told KGW. The other two victims were pronounced dead at the scene.

"Firefighters climbed some stairs leading to an upper floor when a rafter dislodged and the roof caved in on the firefighters," said Coos Bay police Capt. Eura Washburn.

Coos Bay Mayor Joe Benetti told the Associated Press that Hanners was the father of six children. In all, the deceased firefighters left behind 11 children between them.

Hanner's cause of death will be determined by a medical examiner, Dufner said.

The names of the other two deceased firefighters were not released Monday night. Several other firefighters were treated for smoke inhalation, but were not hospitalized.

Gibson said the three killed had seven, eight and 15 years of experience as firefighters respectively.

He told a press conference that eight firefighters were inside the shop when other firefighters on top of the building said the roof was weakening.

The multiple-alarm fire began at Far West Truck and Auto Supply store on South Second Street about 3 p.m. and blazed for nearly one and a half hours.

The fire paralyzed downtown Coos Bay, where power was shut off, telephone lines were tied up, and businesses were evacuated.

Firefighting crews from neighboring towns also converged on Coos Bay to help fight the flames.

Both police officials and the mayor's office said it appeared that the fire was accidental. Arson was not suspected.

Investigators said that Kim Macfee, the owner of the body shop, smelled an unusual odor, climbed on the roof to investigate and discovered the fire.

"An exhaust chimney for the machine shop had caught the attic on fire," David Vandre, a relative of Macfee's, told kgw.com. "It's a total loss, the only thing left is four walls."

Anita Woods, a manager of a nearby business, said that she heard explosions coming from inside the concrete building while the fire was burning.

Other witnesses also saw the roof cave in and said the building was gutted.

"It was a very small building that was engulfed - shooting out flames," said Linda Cornwall, who lives just a couple of blocks from the fire scene.

"It's one of the worst fires I've ever seen in Coos Bay," the life-long Coos Bay resident told kgw.com.

"There were massive flames," echoed Chris Blondell, another resident who works nearby. "The flames got out of control."

He said you could see the thick, black smoke and heavy flames filling the downtown sky at the height of the fire.

"You could definately hear some kind of explosion (as the roof collapsed)," Blondell told KGW.

Andrea Herrera was standing about 100 feet away when she watched the roof fall in. She went to watch the fire because her 20-year-old boyfriend, a volunteer firefighter, was fighting the blaze on the other side of the building.

She said firefighters came running out of the building right before the roof collapsed, then stood on the street, counting heads.

"The flames were 50 feet in the air, and you could hear the windows shattering," she said.

The Oregon State Fire Marshall is investigating the incident.

Fire departments from across Oregon called Coos Bay Monday night, offering to help the grieving department cover their shifts over the holiday weekend.

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