On Friday, Nov. 4, two passers-by spotted an ominous cloud of gray smoke as it billowed from under the metal eaves of a large farm structure at 3045 Gilhouley Road.
The first to sight the danger was phoning in through the 9-1-1 system while the second, Odell volunteer fire Capt. Joey Sheirbon, called emergency dispatch directly.
Firefighters from four departments were on scene within minutes at the two-story combined shop and foreman residence, owned by James Sims and located within a commercial cherry orchard.
"The building is a 90-percent loss and the contents of the shop are a 100-percent loss," said Odell Fire Chief Greg Borton. "The residential area is severely damaged and most of the contents are a loss, as well."
The fire, which may have started in the northeast corner of the shop where a heat lamp was being used to warm a water pipe, consumed ladders, tools, picking bags, buckets and four-wheelers. The cause is still under investigation and no injuries were reported.
In the living quarters, furniture and personal belongings of the orchard foreman, Sam Loza, and his wife were also damaged or lost, with fire crews able to salvage only a few pieces of furniture.
Engines from Odell, Parkdale, Pine Grove and West Side arrived on scene and 22 firefighters assisted in the initial containment, which ended around 6:30 p.m.
However, personnel and equipment were called back around 7 p.m. when a flare-up occurred in the upper story of the metal-sided building.
"The metal siding and roof held heat inside very effectively before it vented out," said Borton, who was out of town at the time of the fire. "It could have been burning for quite some time before it was sighted." Loza was in the orchard at the time of the fire and did not see it start.
Sheirbon served as incident commander and Hood River Fire Chief Devon Wells assisted on the investigation and fire reports.
Several cherry trees near the 3,200-square-foot wood frame structure were scorched during the fire but an equipment shed housing multiple tractors, sprayers and hay storage was protected successfully by the fire crews.
Final mop-up following the second flare-up lasted until about 9:30 p.m.