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Woman perishes in house fire
By CHRIS COLLINS
Of the Baker City Herald
A Baker City woman died in a fire at her home Thursday afternoon.
Julia A. Hughes, 72, of 1251 Broadway St. was dead when firefighters arrived at the scene, according to District Attorney Matt Shirtcliff. The exact cause of death had not been determined by Friday morning.
The fire was reported at 4:05 p.m., according to Fire Chief Tim Frost. Capt. David Yeakley, the first person in the door to fight the fire, suffered heat exhaustion and was hit in the head by falling debris, Frost said. Yeakley was taken to St. Elizabeth Health Services for observation and later released.
The house is owned by Keith Schuchardt of Haines, according to the Baker County Assessors Office.
Eighteen firefighters spent an hour and a half stopping the blaze. It spread quickly through the small house, pushed by a 10 mph wind, Frost said. Witnesses reported hearing explosions before firefighters arrived, which were thought to be caused by oxygen bottles exploding inside the home.
Julia Hughes used oxygen for her health, Shirtcliff said.
The Baker County Major Crime Team was called to investigate the fire because of reports that some of the people who had been at the house earlier in the day had been drinking, Shirtcliff said. Police are interviewing everyone involved with the home on Thursday, he added.
A firefighter remained at the scene overnight to maintain permission to be at the property while the investigation continued, Frost said. There were no flare-ups during the night.
The house was gutted and its contents were totally destroyed, he added. A building behind the house was not damaged.
The cause of the fire had not been determined Friday morning as the investigation continued.