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Firefighters burn to learn
By CHRIS COLLINS
Of the Baker City Herald
Smoke boiled from three buildings in the 1900 block of Resort Street Friday as part of a weekend fire investigation training.
Trainees working to improve their skills spent Saturday in the classroom before traveling to the fire scene Sunday to examine blackened and smokey evidence to trace how the fires got their start.
Forty-one participants from throughout Eastern Oregon and western Idaho traveled to Baker City for the training, said Lt. Jason McKinnon, the fire department's training officer.
The fires were set by instructors from the Oregon Fire Marshal's office and the Baker City Fire Department. They were based on scenarios ranging from kids playing with fireworks to a tipped over light that ignited a pillow in a bedroom.
The buildings will be burned down in a future fire training, McKinnon said. The property, formerly owned by Wescor Properties and managed by John Berg, was sold in December to Randy Daugherty of Baker Garage.
Daugherty agreed to allow the fire department to use the buildings for the training as he prepares to clean up the property. He plans to use it to expand the Baker Garage sales lot.
Wescor bought the property in 1989 in conjunction with its purchase of the Geiser Grand Hotel, with plans to use it for hotel parking, Berg said. The hotel was sold to Dwight and Barbara Sidway in 1993.
The property includes three buildings that housed six apartments, plus a garage and the former Blue Door Salon. Berg and his wife, Linda, have lived in the salon building, remodeled as an apartment, for the past 2 years. They plan to move to Haines.
Berg also had used one of the apartments as his part-time Baker City home over the years. The other apartments have been vacant for about 10 years, he said.
The main house on the property includes one apartment upstairs and three downstairs, he said. He and his wife had considered renovating the house, which he says was built about 1890.
"I'm mainly feeling somewhat nostalgic about the main big house," he said today after the weekend fire training, which did not include that structure.
"In my view it was worth keeping if you had a lot of labor of love invested in it," he said. "From the practical end you possibly could pour so much money into it that it would be impossible to ever recoup it.
"There comes a point where you have to be somewhat practical," he said.
Berg estimates the house on the north side of the property was built about 1929 and that the apartment building to the east of it was built in the 1940s or '50s. He has no history on the salon building, he said.
Nancy Shark, chair of the city's Design Review Commission, said the commission agreed with Daugherty's plan to demolish the buildings and to clear the lot.
"The Design Review (Commission) looked at the buildings and decided that because of the shape they were in, it probably would be a good thing to do that," she said.
The commission reviews plans to make changes to properties in the downtown historic district. "It is sad to see these buildings be torn down, but on the other hand, it will be good to have it cleaned up," she said. "And they can do a training with it, too. That's a good thing."