Vacant church could be council’s temporary home
By Kathleen Ellyn
Wallowa County Chieftain
Fire destroyed Enterprise City Hall Monday evening.
Police tape surrounded the building Tuesday morning and Enterprise Police Chief Joel Fish was parked out front, making sure no one entered the damaged building. The State Fire Marshal was expected to arrive shortly from Bend.
Fire broke out as members of city council were gathered for a work session prior to the regular council meeting at 7:30 p.m.
Enterprise City Mayor Stacey Karvoski told The Chieftain members of the council who had arrived early were organizing for their work session. Council member Dave Elliott left the meeting room to retrieve paperwork from City Administrator Michele Young’s office and found it filled with dense smoke. The council immediately vacated the building and dialed 911.
Enterprise Volunteer Fire Department firefighters, 19 in all, were on the scene within minutes and began to clear the Fire Hall of its equipment and then use it to fight the fire. By 6:57 p.m., Joseph Fire Department was on the way with another five vehicles and 11 firefighters. According to Joseph Fire Chief Jeffery Wecks, by the time they arrived, fire was coming out of two small windows by the air conditioner in Young’s office and smoke was billowing out the doors.
Councilman Micah Agnew had passed the building roughly 10 minutes before and had seen no indication of fire, but as he returned for the meeting, he said he suddenly also saw flames coming out the small windows near Young’s office.
“It went from nothing to flames out the window in five minutes,” he said.
“We caught it really fast,” Wecks said. “Enterprise did a really good job of containing it to one room.”
Before dark, La Grande Rural Fire Department had also been called to refill self contained breathing apparatus tanks as firefighters continued to search the building for hot spots amidst dense smoke.
No cause for the fire has been determined.
Tuesday morning nearby East North Street and North East First Street were blocked by Enterprise Fire vehicles, parked outside for the time being. City Hall was constructed inside the aging Enterprise Fire Hall. Enterprise Fire Chief Paul Karvoski hopes the trucks will be able to go back into the fire hall Tuesday evening.
“The hall is smoke damaged but in as good a condition as you can expect from a 1952 building,” he said.
City Hall, however, is “totaled completely,” Karvoski said. “We still have the fire hall and the fire hall meeting room usable, because the fire was contained to the city hall.”
City officials are meeting today to come up with a plan to move forward with the work of city government.
“We’ve got to get the city back operational,” Karvoski said. “They’re starting back from scratch –– we’ve got to do our best to keep it functional.
City council scheduled a meeting in front of the building at 1 p.m. Tuesday to discuss the next move. Councilman Agnew, who is a minister at Abundant Life Assemblies of God, has offered his old church, a block away from city hall, as a temporary meeting place.
No estimate of the damage was immediately available.