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Oregon firefighter dies in explosion at fire

In this photo provided by Sgt. Jeremy Landers of the Marion County Sheriff's Office, the wreckage of a Barn near St. Paul smolders Thursday, after a fire and explosion destroyed it. A firefighter was killed in the explosion. Investigators were at the scene to determine the cause of the fire and explosion. [Sgt. Jeremy Landers, Marion County Sheriff's Department via AP]

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Firefighters responding to a fire at a barn in rural Oregon early Thursday were hit by an explosion, killing one of them.

The firefighter, later identified as Austin Smith, was airlifted to a hospital from the scene near the town of St. Paul, Marion County Sheriff's Sgt. Jeremy Landers said.

Smith did not survive his injuries, sheriff's officials said later Thursday. Smith, 30, of St. Paul, had been a volunteer firefighter with the St. Paul Fire District since 2015.

“This is a tragic loss for our community and family. We are all heartbroken," St. Paul Fire District Chief Bryan Lee said in a news release.

Investigators from the sheriff’s office, Oregon State Police and the Oregon Office of State Fire Marshal were at the scene but it was still too dangerous to approach the remains of the barn, Landers said.

Officials said efforts were underway to ensure it would be safe for investigators to enter.

A farm that raises turkeys is located on the same gravel road where the barn was located, but it was unclear whether the farm owned the barn. No one picked up the phone at Champoeg Farm or responded to a message.

The fire was reported around 4 a.m. St. Paul is located about 30 miles southwest of Portland.