SEASIDE - What started out as a bomb scare that closed downtown Seaside on Broadway between Holladay Drive and Edgewood Street ended up being an anti-climactic accident.

At 11:40 a.m. Saturday, a van fire was reported on the Broadway Bridge near the Bridge Tender Tavern in Seaside.

Shortly after firefighters arrived, they began evacuating nearby buildings and businesses after observing what looked like a small pipe bomb.

According to Seaside Police Chief Bob Gross, firefighters were dispatched to the van and on arrival reported hearing a "whooshing" sound coming from the vehicle.

"Because of the smoke and sound, we suspected a bomb and called the OSP (Oregon State Police) bomb squad," said Gross.

With the time nearing 3:30 p.m., the OSP bomb squad arrived from Salem to investigate the vehicle and look for the suspected pipe bomb.

A member of the bomb squad, wearing a blast suit for safety, inspected the vehicle twice before an all-clear was issued.

"It appears to just be a battery that overheated and exploded," said Det. Karl Farber, of Pendleton, of the OSP bomb squad. "It was a righteous call to bring us in." Farber said any time there is fire and an explosion, it is better to call the bomb squad - just in case.

Seaside Fire Marshal Chris Dugan said some might think it was overkill to call in the OSP bomb squad, but he felt it was the right decision. He also extended his thanks to the owners of local businesses on Broadway for their cooperation in the evacuation of the potential blast area.

"It's a good thing it didn't go 'boom!'" said Gross. "We always like to err on the side of caution."

According to Dugan, downtown businesses and buildings within 1,000 feet of the reported fire were closed and evacuated . Those businesses and buildings included restaurants, stores and the north side of the Comfort Inn Hotel.

"The cooperation of the businesses was admirable," said Dugan. "Saturday afternoon, I know they rely on that business, and for them to do what they had to do with complete cooperation just shows the kind of people we have here."

Witnesses reported hearing various sounds, some saying it sounded like an M-80 exploding.

"I heard it," said Catherine Thatcher, a local business owner. "I thought it was a delivery truck dropping their gate or something."

Rescued from the smoking van was Morgan, a dog owned by Jason Shelver of Monroe, Wash.

Shelver and his family were in Seaside visiting family members from Alaska. The Shelvers were at the beach when they got a call that their van was smoking and by the time Shelver arrived, Seaside firefighters had the doors and windows of the vehicle open. Shelver asked after his dog and was told they had found Morgan on the floor.

Morgan appeared to be safe and sound after surviving the explosion inside the van, with one exception. The Shelvers said she was not responding to them when they spoke to her and they guessed she may have been rendered deaf by the incident.

"I thought she was dead," said Shelver. "We have a dog with nine lives. I guess she has one less now."

Seaside Fire Department had 26 people respond to the call Saturday, with 12 volunteer firefighters stationed throughout the evacuated area downtown. Gearhart Volunteer Fire Department stood by the Seaside station to take any calls that may have come in while the Seaside firefighters were maintaining safety in the downtown area.

There were no injuries to the public or to firefighters during the course of the day.


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