Looking to rebuild – Community regroups after destructive downtown fire

October 2021 Posted in Business, Community, News, Other, Photo Gallery

By James Day

Mount Angel is in recovery mode this week as the community reels from a devastating weekend fire that destroyed historic structures and four businesses.

The fire, which was called in just before 1 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 9, wiped out a highly visible swath of commercial property along the railroad tracks that separate the Mt. Angel Highway and Highway 214.

Destroyed in the fire were Hidden Bed of Oregon, the Blackbird Granary Antiques & Curiosities, KP Harvest Time Products and Wood Pellet Products. 

The massive multistory sheet metal grain silo of the “old Wilco building,” which dates to 1948, according to the Mt. Angel Historical Society although other structures on the corner date to 1900, was reduced to a pile of twisted debris.

Chunks of metal and charred embers the size of mesquite chunks for barbecuing littered the ground on either side of the fire scene, testimony to how close the fire came to spreading to homes and other businesses.

Approximately 120 firefighters and 35 pieces of apparatus from a wide swath of mid-valley jurisdictions fought the blaze, said Mt. Angel Fire Public Information Officer John Rossi. Ten water tankers shuttled back and forth between the fire scene and Silverton and more than 1 million gallons of water were sprayed on the fire, said Chief Jim Trierweiler.

“I like to think we were good more often than lucky,” Trierweiler wrote in a Facebook post to the community. “But in that fire we were both. As bad as this fire was, it could have been a lot worse. The ember cast that landed all over downtown was thousands and thousands of more fire starting potential. Each of those that landed on roof tops, gutters, along foundations could have started another fire. We had crews patrolling those areas, climbing on roof tops looking for any new starts. That’s where some luck came in.”

Buildings as far away as the post office were doused to keep them from igniting.

“We’re lucky we have such a good mutual aid relationship with    everybody,” said Rossi, who noted assistance from Silverton, Hubbard, Marion County, Woodburn, St. Paul and the Chemeketa Community College firefighting program. And the 120 firefighters were bolstered by medics, area police officers and deputies, Mt. Angel Public Works and the Oregon Department of Transportation.

And they were energizd by deliveries of food from Roth’s, Safeway and Burger Time.

“Everybody gives you food and asks ‘what else can we do?’,” Rossi said. “That’s the great thing about Mount Angel.”

 

Mount Angel and the surrounding community also started donating money to help folks rebuild. As of press deadline more than $10,000 has been raised toward the $20,000 goal of a campaign to assist the Blackbird Granary. To participate go to www.gofundme.com/f/blackbird-granary-antiques-
and-curiosities-fire.

“I want to send out a huge thanks to those who have donated and shared this fundraiser,” said Laura Bramwell, who organized the antiques mall campaign on behalf of owner Tammy Davis. 

“The Davis family feel so incredibly grateful for the outpouring of love they’ve felt since this tragedy first unfolded.”

The north wall of the antique mall still stood after the blaze, with areas of the old dock close to being intact. That’s a far cry from the rest of the businesses, which pretty much burned or melted almost to ground level. The Blackbird is a total loss, Bramwell said, with only a few items from the dock area that are salvageable.

“Though the building may be gone, the memories and relationships forged within will remain,” Bramwell said.

Keith Cobb of Hidden Bed has notified the business community that he already is on the lookout for space with which to restart his business.

“Certainly, it was a shock to us,” Cobb wrote.

“We actually watched as the fire spread from the tall tower to the three other buildings surrounding it, including ours. But we are looking towards a better future for Hidden Bed of Oregon. The business is in our minds and hearts – the building is only incidental. 

“We will rebuild.”

“We will be looking for a temporary space big enough for an office, show room, and storage while we search out a more permanent site,” Cobb said.

Cobb can be reached at 503-336-4064 or keith@hiddenbedoforegon.com.

The cause of the fire remains undetermined, said Rossi, although he told Our Town at presstime that the ongoing investigation has concluded that the fire started in the grain elevator. 

There were no injuries reported beyond a firefighter stepping on some nails.

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The “old Wilco building” as it was known, has stood in downtown Mount Angel as a prominent and historic landmark. In the early 1900s Nicholas Schmaltz opened Schmaltz and Sons, a general warehouse providing supplies to the surrounding farming community. 

The original warehouse was housed in the Blackbird Granary Antiques & Curiosities building. Schmaltz  remodeled the original warehouse multiple times throughout the 1920s by building an office addition, loading dock and additional warehouse space.

In 1940, the Mt. Angel Farmers Union purchased the Schmaltz and Sons warehouse and in 1948, the grain elevator was built. The Mount Angel skyline is forever changed with the loss of the “old Wilco building.”

 

 

 

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