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Three Seaside buildings ruined: What caused this fire?

Early signs show blaze began in laundromat

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Posted: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 11:55 am | Updated: 12:36 pm, Wed Sep 19, 2012.

SEASIDE — Only the skeletons of three buildings remained this morning following a fire on the edge of downtown Seaside Tuesday.

Members of the Clatsop County Fire Investigation Team, the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s office and the Oregon State Police were meeting at City Hall today to begin investigating the fire’s cause, said Seaside Fire Chief Joey Daniels.

While the investigation continues, Avenues A and B between Roosevelt Drive and Holladay Drive are blocked to traffic. The area is only one block south of Seaside’s Gilbert District downtown.

No damage estimates are available yet, Daniels said. The fire destroyed a vacant laundromat on Avenue B, the Seaside Foods building at 781 Avenue A and a warehouse immediately west of Seaside Foods. A house to the west of the laundromat also was damaged.

Firefighters believe the fire began in the laundromat at about 9:26 a.m. The blaze then spread to the Seaside Foods building and to the adjacent warehouse.

Firefighters worked throughout the morning to contain the fire. Two firefighters received minor injuries. One firefighter was treated at Providence Seaside Hospital during the day and released, and another firefighter went to the hospital Tuesday evening to reduce the swelling on a sprained ankle.

In addition to the Seaside Volunteer Fire Department, firefighters from Cannon Beach, Gearhart, Warrenton and Hamlet assisted. Astoria firefighters covered for the Gearhart department. Other agencies, from as far away as Tillamook and Columbia County were put on alert, Daniels said.

“Every firefighter in the county was mobilized for this fire,” Daniels said.

Smoke spotted

Scott Miller, safety coordinator from M&F Plumbing across the street from Seaside Foods, said he was in the shop’s parking lot Tuesday morning when he saw smoke coming from the laundromat behind the Seaside Foods building. He called 911.

Meanwhile, M&F secretary Debbie Breitmeyer ran into the street, waving her arms, trying to get the attention of the woman working in the Seaside Foods office. That woman, who would give her name only as Barbara, said Breitmeyer’s movements caught her eye.

“I ran out because she was waving,” Barbara said. “She told me, ‘The building is on fire.’”

Then, before the fire trucks arrived, someone grabbed a garden hose and climbed on top of a dumpster to try to spray the roof, Barbara said.

Miller ran over to Seaside Foods and drove a truck out of the center bay of the building. He then went back to grab more items.

“We got her computer out a minute before the roof went down,” Miller said.

Bill Greenhoe said his family has owned the building for 22 years. It contained refrigerators and freezers to hold the milk, ice cream and other dairy products the company distributes locally.

“I was just coming back into Seaside from a round (of deliveries) in Elsie, when I saw there was a fire,” Greenhoe said. “Then I realized it was our building that was on fire.”

Greenhoe said he hopes to find a refrigerated trailer and a place to park it to continue business until a permanent building can be found.

“You don’t want to think about the next step, but at least we’ve been able to start planning,” he said.

Transients had reportedly been living in the laundromat, Greenhoe said. “A trailer near there caught on fire last year,” he said. “It has been a reoccurring problem.”

Ter Har’s warehouse destroyed

Tuesday’s fire also destroyed the warehouse west of Seaside Foods. Owned by Jeff and Peter Ter Har for 12 years, the warehouse was the central collection point for inventory before it was distributed to the clothing stores the Ter Hars own in Seaside and Cannon Beach.

Much of the inventory had already been unpacked and sent to the stores, said Peter Ter Har.

“It’s September, which is a slower time. It’s not like it was a month ago” when the warehouse held many more boxes, he said.

A portion of the building was also being rented by Longview Fibre, said Jeff Ter Har.

The laundromat had been for sale for quite a while before the fire broke out. It is owned by a family estate. The residence also was for sale.

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