Coos Bay, OR Officials Looking for Incinerator Permits

An investigation conducted by the state fire marshal indicated last week's fire was ignited by heat from an incinerator.

Its assessed value in 2002, according to the assessor's office, was $300,000. Kim Macfee owned and operated Farwest Truck and Auto Supply in the building.

According to city building records, Farwest was approved for a remodeling in 1993, when a roof was refitted on the aging building.

In January 2001, records show the city approved a business license for Automotive Machine Service and issued it a certificate indicating the company "was in compliance with the various ordinances of the city regulating building construction or use."

In March 2001, the city also approved plans submitted by Farwest to build a mezzanine for storage above the business' office. The interior work was done by Steve Auer Construction, of Coos Bay.

The Farwest building did undergo a fire inspection in October, according to Lt. Randy Miles, when firefighters conducted an investigation and inventory of the building. Miles said firefighters found minor infractions, such as faulty outlets or unapproved extension cords, but added no significant violations were recorded during the inspection.

"They're all going to have those types of things," Miles said. "It's not really a high target as a dangerous building in our district."

Miles, however, said firefighters knew that putting out a building fire at Farwest would cause complications due to its construction, which apparently allowed the blaze to hide for hours before it was discovered.

"Those types of structures are not firefighter friendly," Miles said. "We knew that it had some hazardous stuff in there that was going to feed the fire. We're aware of that stuff when we go in."

The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration is conducting an investigation into the building and interviewing firefighters who were involved in the blaze. Miles said that report is expected to be completed in late January.

Shribbs said building inspector Joe McClay has been working with the state Fire Marshal to conduct an investigation into the building, what caused its roof to collapse so quickly during the blaze and its flue and furnace. McClay was not available for comment Monday.

City officials were mostly unavailable all day Monday. Many were reported to be in day-long administrative meetings. Late in the afternoon, a city employee said administrators would no longer answer questions about the fire or building although shortly thereafter, Shribbs responded to a public records request filed by The World newspaper.

Questions during the day were being referred to Melinda Merrill, a senior account executive with The Rockey Company, a Portland public relations firm that handled information during the grounded New Carissa removal. Merrill offered her services to firefighters freely after the collapse but it's unclear whether she was contracted to work for the city. Merrill said she was contacted by the city but the parties hadn't yet discussed compensation.

"They're completely overwhelmed," Merrill said Monday night. "They need some assistance to track down some information."

Merrill said at the time she didn't know how to answer questions about the city's permitting and had no information about the city's investigation relating to the incinerator or flue.

City Editor Elise Hamner contributed to this story.