PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As firefighters battled a 3-alarm blaze near Gaston in the early hours of Saturday, a person came to the property and fired shots, prompting firefighters to take cover.
Investigators later detained a man who lives at the address on 4 separate charges.
Fire crews were at a 1000-square foot barn fire on Northwest Kiacut Road just before 4 a.m. when they were forced to scramble after the shots were fired. Multiple agencies from Washington and Yamhill counties rushed to the firefighters call for help.
“It was about 4 minutes after they upgraded to a 3rd-alarm, they called out to emergency traffic that someone had a gun and there were potentially shots fired,” said Matt Johnson with Forest Grove Fire, representing Gaston Fire. “Crews pretty much retreated the area. Found safety, some of them went behind trees, others just hid behind the engines and just tried to find hard cover.”
The shots sounded like they weren’t coming from the direction of the fire, not associated with the fire, Johnston said.
The Yamhill County Sheriff’s Office said Joshua K. Waters fired a shotgun into the air during a verbal argument among the people who live at the property. It does not appear Waters fired the gun at the firefighters.
The shotgun was seized. Authorities said Waters was charged with menacing, reckless endangering, unlawful use of a weapon and interfering with a firefighting operation.
Law enforcement “mitigated the problem they had with the gun. They deemed the scene safe for us to continue our fire operations” about 20 minutes later. Authorities said about 25-30 law enforcement officers responded to the scene.
Fallen, live power lines and a lack of fire hydrants in the rural setting slowed the firefighters’ response and led them to initially call for more help. Firefighters shuttled 3000 gallons of water to the scene, officials said.
“They had difficulty right off the bat with power lines burning off the building, hitting on the ground, blocking access,” he said. “They knew they had a big challenge ahead of them. It was really close to a house. Vehicles were catching on fire, one of the vehicles was five feet or less from the structure and it caught fire.”
Johnston said it’s always a risk going to these fires. “There are so many dangers that come along with this and then to have a situation then with someone with a gun, but it sounds like the firefighters weren’t the target.”
Johnston said after the situation with the gun was resolved, “we actually got a good handle on the fire.” But the crews “had to regroup” because the firefighters had gotten spread out and were in more danger being disconnected from each other.
No injuries were reported, he said, though one firefighter was treated for heat exhaustion.
It took about 90 minutes to bring the fire under control. He said it appeared as if someone was living in the barn at the time the fire broke out. No cause of the fire has yet been determined.
“The barn, some vehicles, trailers, some other things like that were all a complete loss,” he told KOIN 6 News. “But the house was saved and it didn’t spread to the forest.”