Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

BLM report that no structures were damaged was inaccurate

A Saturday evening fire destroyed Kathy and Gary Bloomer's historic wooden barn on their ranch near Durkee, but firefighters from Huntington saved the couple's nearby home.

A BLM report that no structures were damaged in the fire, which spread to 247 acres of private and BLM land on Gold Hill, was inaccurate.

Kathy Bloomer said this morning she's grateful to the Huntington Fire Department, and all others who helped.

"It's pretty devastating," she said. "It's still so surreal when you look out there and see what's gone.

"But there were no injuries, and we still have our home."

Bloomer said the fire apparently started at the very top of the barn.

"We have no idea what started it," she said.

Bloomer said there was no hay in the barn, and no vehicles or other equipment.

She and her husband were attending their granddaughter's wedding reception at the Durkee Community Hall when they got a call about 6:10 p.m. about the fire.

The couple's ranch is along Plano Road, just north of Interstate 84 and across the freeway from the Ash Grove Cement plant.

Bloomer said a neighbor told her he drove by the couple's property about 5:40 p.m., and that he smelled smoke then.

About 10 minutes later he drove past again and saw smoke and fire at the top of the barn.

"Thirty-seven minutes after the first flames, the barn was on the ground," Bloomer said.

She said the fire also destroyed two adjacent wooden sheds, one of which served as the ranch's bunkhouse.

Bloomer said the barn and other structures were insured, and that an insurance adjuster was scheduled to visit the property this morning.

Bloomer said she and her husband and others were able to grab several leather saddles from the barn, but they were damaged by the radiant heat.

The couple lost a considerable amount of other horse tack, she said.

The blaze also destroyed the ranch corrals.

Bloomer said she's grateful that the couple's cattle had already grazed the rangeland on Gold Hill and had since been moved to pastures south of the freeway.

But she doesn't yet know whether their scorched rangeland will recover sufficiently so that it can be grazed next spring and summer.

The blaze burned long stretches of range fence, Bloomer said.

Fire crews that worked on the blaze Saturday and Sunday camped on the Bloomer's property.

She said the fire didn't burn the couple's irrigated hay fields, which had recently been harvested.

Bloomer said that in addition to firefighters from Huntington, Durkee and other local departments, several nearby residents pitched in.

"Thank goodness the whole community came together," she said.

She said she's especially grateful to the Huntington Fire Department, which put its fire truck between the barn and the Bloomers' home, which is just 30 feet or so away.

Bloomer also thanked Deputy John Hoopes of the Baker County Sheriff's Office, who strived to call in as much firefighting help as possible.

"He went above and beyond," Bloomer said.

She said a group of travelers on the freeway even stopped to help.

Bloomer said she and others were still wearing dresses, having driven straight from the wedding reception.

"These young men took the shovels from these ladies who were in dresses, trying to fight fire," she said.