Homeless camper likely caused mill fire, officials say

Officials said the building’s owners had complained about transients starting small warming fires inside it during the winter.

Posted: Feb 27, 2019 5:45 PM

LEBANON, Ore. -- Transients trying to stay warm probably lit a fire that destroyed the former Champion Mill building, Lebanon Fire officials said.

Firefighters responded to 3133 Burdell Boulevard around 8:15 p.m. on Monday.

The 51,000-square-foot building began to collapse less than five minutes after crews arrived. While the fire was brought under control in about two hours, crews remained on scene becasue the collapse trapped pockets of fire within the structure that couldn't be reached by hose streams. The fire was contained around the edges and crews let it burn out overnight. 

The building was abandoned, but officials said the building’s owners had complained about transients starting small warming fires inside it during the winter.

Lebanon Fire Marshal Jason Bolen said the fire started along the north wall. There was no electricity to the building. Officials have ruled the cause as accidental.

“We may theorize that ‘X’ caused the fire, but if we can’t prove that theory using the scientific method, we can’t say with unquestionable certainty that it was the cause,” Bolen said.

Fire units from Albany, Sweet Home, Scio, and Brownsville assisted.

This is the third fire at the mill. In 2006 a three-story building caught fire due to an unauthorized salvage operation on the upper level. About two weeks later a separate building burned down. The cause of that fire was undetermined.

The mill site was originally home to Evans Plywood, established in 1940. It changed hands multiple times before becoming part of Champion International in 1967. Eventually the plant was sold to RE Services in 2000 and closed permanently in 2004.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 33291

Reported Deaths: 555
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah7257140
Marion474395
Washington458160
Umatilla299841
Clackamas244862
Malheur164230
Lane126717
Jackson11715
Deschutes85912
Yamhill76914
Jefferson5458
Polk53515
Linn52513
Morrow5096
Lincoln48113
Union4462
Benton3226
Wasco2963
Klamath2902
Hood River2520
Douglas2394
Clatsop2180
Josephine2032
Columbia1821
Coos1580
Baker952
Crook631
Tillamook530
Lake330
Wallowa321
Curry310
Sherman180
Harney120
Grant100
Gilliam80
Unassigned00
Wheeler00
Eugene
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 54°
Corvallis
Clear
53° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 53°
Roseburg
Clear
59° wxIcon
Hi: 96° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 59°
North Bend
Overcast
56° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 56°
KEZI Radar
KEZI Temperatures
KEZI Planner

LATEST FORECAST

Community Events