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Hazardous waste found during small Dee mill fire

By SUE RYAN

News staff writer

March 17, 2007

Firefighters responding to a report of smoke coming from a former boiler room at the old Dee lumber mill Thursday morning found something unexpected instead.

“When we went in, we found a considerable amount of hazardous materials,” said Devon Wells, assistant fire chief for Hood River Fire Department.

The former mill is located on Lost Lake Road, just off Dee Highway. It was built in 1906 by David Eccles as the Oregon Lumber Company and went through subsequent owner and name changes through the years.

The property and buildings currently belong to Pasquale Barone, who lives in Canada. Barone is a former resident of Hood River who still owns multiple properties in the area including the old Dee mill and the Museum of Carousel Art.

Wells was the public information officer on the incident although response came from four departments in the county. What the 25 firefighters from Pine Grove, Parkdale, Odell and Hood River found were barrels of materials and transformers.

While the small fire was extinguished with less than 100 gallons of water, the firefighters left to suit up for a hazardous materials response.

The items included some 55-gallon drums of sodium hydroxide and water treatment chemicals as well as five transformers. Wells said the main concern was it was obvious the drums and transformers had been leaking and one drum was uncovered.

He said they contacted the Oregon Emergency Response Team, which dispatched HazMat responders from Gresham.

“The HazMat team surveyed the area and found the leaks happened over a period of time,” Wells said. “While there were drain pipes at the site, there was no leak into the drains.”

The boiler room is near the Middle Fork of the Hood River. Wells said the HazMat team contacted the Department of Environmental Quality, which has requested a cleanup of the area. Wells said the cause of the fire was under investigation by the Hood River County Sheriff’s office, in relation to other activities in the area.

Sheriff’s deputy Matt English said there was an open criminal case on the incident. He said the fire was set in the process of committing a crime.

“Someone’s illegally entered into that building (the boiler room),” English said. “We have had problems at that location during the last nine months.”

He said the waste and fire were connected to a burglary that was part of the investigation.

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