Boggan’s Oasis on Highway 126 is no more.
The nearly 80-year-old landmark, set next to the only bridge crossing the Grande Ronde three miles north of the Wallowa County border with the state of Washington was completely destroyed by fire Nov. 18.
No one was injured in the fire, according to co-owner Bill Vail. He along with his wife, Farrel, have owned the business for 34 years. The restaurant is not in a fire district so no fire department responded.
“We would have responded if there were a life threat,” said Noel Hardin, Chief of Asotin County Fire District 1. “We ascertained that there was no threat to life. Blue Mountain Fire District is closer, their border is about three miles from Boggan’s, but they are primarily a wildland unit and cannot do structure firefighting.”
Farrel Vail said they called both fire districts but understood when they called that they were not in the fire district. The distance to Asotin also meant that response time would have been at least one hour and the building was already fully engulfed at the time she called.
Farrel reported that the fire began approximately 11 p.m. and burned fiercely.
“I heard this noise outside and I stuck my head out and didn’t see anything, so I got back in bed,” she said. “I heard the noise again and lifted the blind on the restaurant side and saw the flames.”
The cabins, which are part of the camping area at the Oasis, were filled with visitors, so Farrel approached one of the outdoor guides who was staying there and asked him to enter the building to get the fire extinguishers, but the fire was already too advanced for that.
“Power lines were down and arcing all over the place, and the people who were here in the cabins were beating the fire out on the banks so it didn’t travel up to the dwellings,” Farrel said.
The Vails, who live just 20 feet from the restaurant, are in their 80s and are unsure if they will rebuild the well-known stop.
“Hell, I’m 84 years old, why do I want to start over?” Farrel Vail said. “We’re more worried about our customers than anyone else; we’re working on our third generation of customers.”
It will be some time before the cause of the fire is known.
“Easter brunch may be a little late,” Farrel said.