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Jan-07-2008 17:43printcomments

Update on Historic Nyberg House Fire in Tualatin

Until the danger of working around and beneath unstable structural members is eliminated, the fire investigation remains on-hold

Historic Nyberg House in Tualitan, Oregon burning January 2nd
Photo courtesy: Karen Eubanks, Tualitan Valley Fire & Rescue

(TUALATIN, Ore.) - Tualatin likely began the process of saying goodbye to a landmark Wednesday, January 2nd, when flames were reported at the historic Nyberg house that night at 11:30 PM. The building was devastated by the fire and is likely a total loss. At the time of the fire it was vacant, though transient activity was reported from time to time there.

Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue Spokesperson Karen Eubanks says firefighters arriving at the scene found the entire first floor of the building engulfed with fire spreading to the second and third floor of the structure.

"Weighing the heavy volume of fire and potential for a roof collapse with the fact that the building had been unoccupied for years, incident commanders made the decision to safely battle the fire defensively from the exterior."

Firefighters aggressively fought the fire for over an hour and extinguished hot spots throughout the night, she said. The building's age, balloon-construction framework and lathe-and-plaster walls all likely contributed to the fire spreading rapidly throughout the house.

Eubanks explains that balloon construction involves wall studs that run continuously from the first floor sill to the top plate or end rafter of the top floor.

"This method allows fire to rapidly travel from lower floors to the top unless some type of fire stop material is used at each floor. Contemporary light-weight residential construction involves constructing each floor's walls independent of other floors. Contemporary construction also utilizes sheetrock upon the walls. This too slows fire spread."

She says the fire caused extensive damage throughout the structure including a roof that has collapsed onto the second story and burned flooring, walls, and other structural members.

"Not only has this resulted in the building likely being a complete loss, but the damage has compromised the structural integrity of the house making it unsafe for fire investigators to enter."

Until the danger of working around and beneath unstable structural members is eliminated, the fire investigation remains on-hold, Eubanks said.

She says waiting to safely enter the house has not harmed or compromised the fire investigation.

TVF&R's Fire Prevention Division and Technical Rescue Team was expected to evaluate the building today and determine what actions are needed to ensure the stability of the house, including the use of heavy equipment to remove the roof and possibly the second and portions of the first floor.

The home was not occupied nor did it have electrical power at the time of the fire. Based on that, investigators have already ruled out electrical, as well as cooking equipment, as potential causes.

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