By CHRIS COLLINS
Of the Baker City Herald
An 83-year-old former schoolhouse building at Telocaset was destroyed by fire Tuesday afternoon.
The fire at the home of Larry and Theta Levasseur at 68528 Telocaset Lane was reported by neighbors about 12:15 p.m., according to the Union County Sheriff's Department dispatch.
andquot;It was definitely a sad day,andquot; said neighbor Julie Thurston. andquot;A lot of history just went up in smoke.andquot; Thurston said she first saw smoke billowing out of the house .
andquot;Then the wind kind of picked up and flames blew out of it,andquot; she said.
She watched as the metal roof melted and the old bell tower started sinking from the top of the two-story building.
andquot;They tried hard to save it,andquot; she said.
Firefighters from the North Powder Rural Fire District were the first to respond. They then called for mutual aid from other departments. Volunteers from the Union, La Grande Rural, Cove and Imbler fire departments as well as the Oregon Department of Forestry at La Grande responded, said North Powder Fire Chief George Russell. About 20 firefighters worked at the scene.
andquot;We had a great response and we appreciate everybody's efforts to help us,andquot; Russell said.
Crews remained at the house until after 11 p.m. and then returned today to check some hot spots, he added.
The cause had not been determined at press time and the investigation was continuing today, he said.
Roger Cochran, a Union County marine deputy and chaplain, was traveling to Thief Valley Reservoir for marine patrol when he was recruited for traffic control Tuesday. He worked to keep unnecessary traffic off the road at Telocaset Lane and Highway 237.
Power and phone service was disrupted for a time during the firefighting effort, he said.
The Levasseurs, a retired couple, were not at home and didn't learn about the fire until the house was gone, Thurston said. They were in the process of moving to Lostine where they have built a log cabin, she said.
The couple could not be reached in time for this story.
Russell said the Levasseurs were in La Grande Tuesday when the fire started. Most of their belongings were still in the Telocaset house and were lost in the fire, he said.
Russell said the dollar amount of the loss had not been determined today. The house was insured.
The Levasseurs had worked hard to restore the old schoolhouse to its former state, Thurston said.
andquot;It was just a beautiful old building with good wood,andquot; she said. andquot;That's probably why it went up so fast.andquot;