Police Think Someone Set Three-Alarm Blaze in Oregon

May 23, 2006

Authorities in Albany, Ore., said a three-alarm fire there that destroyed a vacant industrial building and cut off power to much of downtown appears to have been set on purpose.

“It’s not an accident as far as we know,” city of Albany spokeswoman Marilyn Smith said.

The Albany Fire and Police departments are offering a reward of $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone involved in the fire at the former fish processing plant.

Investigators are also seeking still photographs or home video of the fire in its early stages.

Sixty firefighters from Albany, Corvallis, Lebanon, Tangent, Scio and Jefferson responded to the blaze, and 25 returned, to mop up late flare-ups and protect surrounding structures.

Water from firefighting contributed to a landslide on the south bank of the Willamette River directly behind the burning building. Public works officials are assessing the area.

Six Albany firefighters were taken to Samaritan Albany General Hospital after a live powerline fell onto the engine on which they were working and energized the ground. All six returned to work at the fire scene within a few hours.

“They took a jolt,” Smith said. “It’s a miracle they’re OK.”

The blaze caused a power outage throughout downtown Albany for nearly two hours. Fire officials also halted rail traffic for a short time.

The fire was first noticed shortly before 9 p.m. by Albany Police Officer Jed Wilson, who was doing a routine patrol of the area.

The building, which originally operated as a cannery and had changed hands several times over the years, was most recently occupied by Inland Quick Freeze, a frozen seafood processing company. Quick Freeze closed its business several years ago and the building had been vacant since.

A development company from Portland had recently purchased the building to redevelop it as 80 condominiums, Dick Ebbert, Albany’s economic development director, told the downtown development committee last week.

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