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Fire destroys wreath-making shop

WHITE CITY — A Christmas wreath maker is out of business after a fire ignited by a woodstove gutted a shop at 9284 Agate Road Monday morning.

"I will survive," said Ed "Stuffy" Deschamps, a 72-year-old Gold Hill resident. "It's just material things, and nobody got hurt."

Deschamps, who doesn't have insurance, lit the woodstove in the shop around 8 a.m., then left the building for a while. When he returned, the flames were already up the side of the building.

"It was a flue fire, I think," he said.

The shop is owned by Denny Chancler Equipment.

Even though Jackson County Fire District No. 3 was less than a mile away, firefighters relied on water tenders because there were no fire hydrants nearby.

"We had fire coming through the roof on the side around the woodstove when we arrived," said Don Hickman, District 3 deputy fire marshal.

Stacks of pine boughs sat just outside the building as firefighters spent almost an hour dousing the blaze, eventually knocking down the walls.

Hickman said the fire was more difficult to put out because of stacks of cardboard boxes piled up on the west side of the building.

Deschamps said up to 4,000 boxes had been delivered recently, along with pine cones and other materials used in his wreath-making business, High Country.

"My supplies were all lost," he said.

When the fire started, Deschamps said he tried to put it out, but when he realized it was impossible, he and another employee started moving valuables out of the building, including welding and other equipment owned by Denny Chancler.

Curt Chancler, Denny's cousin, said Deschamps and firefighters helped save a rare 1955 Harley-Davidson motorcycle from the building.

Agate Road was closed to through traffic as firefighters staged equipment and expressed concerns about the potential for exploding propane tanks and other pressurized equipment.

Curt Chancler said he called his cousin to tell him about the fire. "I don't think he believed it at first," he said.

Denny Chancler, who was in Montana for work, said in a telephone interview that he left the Medford area Sunday, battled his way through a snowstorm, then his alternator went out.

"It's been quite a day today," he said.

He said he didn't use the shop for much except storage. "I had almost everything out of there," he said. "It was like a dungeon. You couldn't see anything."

He said he doesn't have insurance.

Deschamps said he already had fashioned 1,200 wreaths that are sold by local youths for fundraising efforts. But he said he will fall far short of the 6,000 wreaths he normally makes.

Deschamps said he will try a "work-around" to fulfill some additional orders for wreaths. His big shipping date is around Thanksgiving.

In the meantime, Deschamps is going in for surgery today to have stents placed in his leg.

No stranger to fire, Deschamps said arsonists several years ago tried to burn the building down. He will go back into what remains of the building to see whether anything is salvageable."It ruined my business," he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or e-mail dmann@mailtribune.com.

District 3 firefighter John Hull sets up cones for a fire truck in front of the burning building. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell - Bob Pennell