Chris Collins
The Baker City Herald

Fifteen residents of Meadowbrook Place were evacuated briefly from their apartments on the Fourth of July after illegal fireworks ignited arborvitae bushes in the courtyard area about 10:45 p.m.

“They were outside for a very short time,” Suzanne Miller, Meadowbrook director for the past 23 years, said of the residents. “(The Fire Department) got the fire out within 15 to 20 minutes.”

Interim Fire Chief Cliff Hall said a neighbor grabbed a garden hose at Meadowbrook and began spraying the fire even before the Fire Department arrived.

The eight Baker City fir efighters were assisted by volunteers from the Baker Rural Fire Protection District. Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative employees also responded.

The firefighters worked at the scene for about an hour and a half, Hall said. He estimated the damage at about $5,000, which included damage to the siding of the apartment building and some exterior damage to the box that housed a power transformer.

Meadowbrook sustained no interior damage and no one was hurt.

Miller, who lives at Sumpter and was not at the scene, had high praise for the four members of the night-shift care staff who were on duty at Meadowbrook when the fire started.

“They came together and protected (the residents) and kept them calm,” she said.

Julie Daly, marketing director for the assisted living complex that includes 50 apartments and 52 residents, also had high praise for the staff and emergency responders.

“We’re very lucky,” she said. “This could have been a lot worse.

An illegal fireworks apparently flew into the courtyard area on the south side of the building, igniting eight arborvitae trees that were planted at least 15 years ago to obscure an electrical transformer box. The trees were destroyed in the fire and the siding on the apartment complex was scorched and melted by the blaze.

During the brief period the trees burned, flames reportedly were seen by travelers on the freeway east of Meadowbrook, Daly said.

Baker City Police Chief Wyn Lohner said his officers are continuing to investigate the fire.

“It definitely was started by illegal fireworks,” he said. “We do have leads in the case and we’re actively investigating it.”

Second fire

Firefighters responded to a second fire at 12:21 p.m. Thursday at 1990 Chestnut St.

Hall said when firefighters arrived they found an exterior fire burning at the rear of the house. It had extended into the attic space of the home.

“We got a good stop on it,” he said, adding that the fire was out within about 25 minutes.

The two-bedroom house is owned by Amber Scelson.

Hall said the fire apparently was caused by a cigarette that had been left smoldering in a flower pot. The pot ignited and the fire spread to patio furniture and then to the rear wall and into the attic.

Burn ban

Because of the dry conditions and an extended forecast calling for high temperatures, Hall has called for a burning ban in the Baker City limits starting at noon today.

“The burn ban will remain in effect until reevaluated later in the fall when the area has received enough moisture for fuel recovery,” he stated in a press release.

Hall said residents may continue to use barbecue grills during the burn ban, but all open burning or the use of burn barrels is closed.

“The Baker City Fire Department urges all residents to be extra vigilant with any type of ignition sources as temperatures are forecast to remain high with very low humidity into the extended forecast,” Hall said.

See more in the July 7, 2017 issue of the Baker City Herald.