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3 Oregon Firefighters Killed in Blaze

November 26, 2002

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) _ Fire departments from across Oregon offered their help to the coastal city of Coos Bay, where an explosive fire at a truck and auto supply store killed three firefighters.

The fire blazed for about 1 1/2 hours Monday. Downtown Coos Bay was paralyzed as power was shut off, telephone lines were tied up and businesses were evacuated.

The cause had not been determined Tuesday but Coos Bay Mayor Joe Benetti said it appeared that the fire was accidental. Police said Kim Macfee, the owner of the body shop, smelled an unusual odor, climbed on the roof to investigate and discovered the fire.

The Oregon State Fire Marshal was investigating.

The blaze killed one career firefighter and two volunteers, said police Capt. Eura Washburn. Two of the firefighters died when the roof caved in while they were on the second floor.

The bodies, each covered by an American flag, were brought out by an honor guard of fellow firefighters and carried past a line of about 100 firefighters.

The third man, 33-year-old Robert Charles Hanners, died at Bay Area Hospital, said Linda Dufner, a nursing supervisor.

Benetti said firefighters who escaped the blaze were in mourning and in shock.

``I asked one, ‘What can we do?’ and he said, ’Not much. We will just start going through the mourning process,‴ Benetti said. ``He said one of the firemen who lost their lives was his best man three months ago.″

Firefighting crews from neighboring towns converged on Coos Bay to help fight the flames.

Later, fire departments throughout the area called with offers to help the department cover shifts during the holiday weekend.

The town of about 15,500 people sits on the coast about 170 miles southwest of Portland, and is Oregon’s second-busiest maritime commerce center.

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