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Firefighters battle major blaze

photo by Gary Miller

Firefighters had their hands full battling a structure fire in a 17,000-plus square-foot home.

A major fire at a large home east of Sisters tested firefighters from across the region last weekend. On Sunday afternoon, March 19, at about 3:30 p.m., Cloverdale Rural Fire Protection District units were dispatched to a structure fire at 17655 Varco Rd. Upon arrival, firefighters found "heavy fire conditions" in the center portion of the 17,000-plus-square-foot, three-story home. While responding from an earlier medical call, Cloverdale Fire Chief Thad Olsen began calling for additional resources as a column of smoke rose skyward from the residence. Due to the remote location of the residence, resources included a strike team of water tenders from Deschutes and Jefferson counties. Fire units from Sisters-Camp Sherman, Black Butte Ranch, Bend, Redmond, Crooked River Ranch, Jefferson County #1, Sunriver, and Warm Springs Fire districts, along with personnel from Central Electric Cooperative, Deschutes County Roads Department, Deschutes County Building Department, Deschutes County Sheriff's Office, and Black Butte Ranch Police Departments responded to assist. All residents of the home were evacuated before firefighters arrived. All of the family's pets were safely removed from the home. Within minutes of the arrival of the first fire units, the fire moved from the first floor, through the second floor and into the attic, venting through the roof. According to Cloverdale firefighters, the residence is composed of lightweight engineered wood construction. Due to the construction style and components, firefighters encountered many hidden pockets of fire in the floors, attic, and interior walls. Efforts to fight the fire from the interior of the building were unsuccessful, in part due to a collapse of the roof, which fell through both upper stories and into the basement, the fire department reported. The collapse prevented firefighters from accessing the fire in the basement. A structural engineer from the Deschutes County Building Department assessed the building and declared it to be unsafe for firefighters to enter due to the potential for further collapse. Firefighters fought the fire from the exterior of the building throughout the night and into Monday afternoon. With the help of heavy equipment from the Deschutes County Road Department and Robinson-Owens Construction, firefighters were able to extinguish all the hidden fire by Monday afternoon. Fire Chief Thad Olsen could provide no estimate of damage. One family member suffered minor burns and was treated at the scene. There were no firefighter injuries. Chief Olsen expressed his gratitude for all of the assistance provided by allied agencies during this incident. The cause of the fire is currently under investigation by the Cloverdale Fire District and the Oregon State Fire Marshal's office.

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