Firefighters responding to an Applegate house fire Tuesday night found themselves grounded when their fire truck broke through the wooden deck of a private-access bridge over the Applegate River.
Within sight of the flames, they were helpless to reach the structure, which was a total loss.
Units from Applegate Fire District No. 9 received the call for a structure fire at 11255 Highway 238 at about 10:30 p.m., and firefighters could see flames engulfing the house as they approached the scene, said Applegate Fire Chief Brett Fillis.
The first unit to arrive from the district's Ruch headquarters eased onto the bridge's wooden deck, which had been built on a steel substructure, Fillis said.
"As they were going across the bridge, the front right tire went through the bridge, ending their response, and ending everybody else's response," Fillis said.
"The way these things tend to get constructed, if you're driving very religiously on the wooden decking right over the steel I-beams, you're in pretty good shape, but if you get off the suckers a little bit, then you're in trouble, and that's kind of what happened here."
Crews dumped the water out of the fire truck to lighten the vehicle by about 8,000 pounds, and two tow trucks were able to pull the vehicle off the bridge, which is on the homeowner's property.
The truck was undamaged and no one was hurt.
The access bridge had last been assessed in 2007 and could bear a load of about 50,000 pounds, well above the 34,000-pound weight of the fire truck, Fillis said.
Damage to the house and its contents was estimated at at least $400,000. Jackson County property records list the owner as Arthur Enderle. The two-story, 1982 house is 5,232 square feet and sits on 46 acres, records show.
Fillis said he doubts crews would have been able to save the house even if they had made it across the bridge because of how quickly the flames had already spread.
The owner, who does not have insurance, was alerted to the fire by smoke detectors and was able to make it out unhurt, Fillis said.
When contacted, the owner refused to comment.
"He got out with the clothes he had on, pretty much," Fillis said.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil. Reach reporter Sam Wheeler 541-776-4471 or by email at email@example.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/swhlr.