Investigators start work on identifying cause of Les Schwab fire

ST. HELENS, Ore. - Late in the afternoon Monday workers started carefully tearing away the outside walls of the Les Schwab with a backhoe looking for the cause of the fire that destroyed the building Friday.

Fire investigators couldn't get into the building over the weekend because of persistent hot spots. A little bit of smoke still rose from the ruins Monday.

The building was a total loss and four cars inside the shop, including a Columbia County Sheriff's patrol car, were burned nearly beyond recognition.

There was also a silver Ford Mustang outside the building that belongs to Carole Myrick of Warren. She was in Portland when she heard about the fire.

"I said, 'You've got to be kidding me. That's where my car is,'" she said Monday. "I've had people tell me, oh, my car's OK cause it's parked on the outside. I've had people tell me, oh, my car is toast because the flames and the black smoke."

Myrick received a lot of conflicting information before she inspected her car itself. While it was parked outside the shop during the fire, it may still be a total loss. Firefighters sprayed the car several times to keep it from burning. Myrick said there was a lot of smoke and water damage because a window was down.

She called the car her "baby," adding she's had it for 12 years. But she said Les Schwab has been very good to her and other affected customers. The company's insurance policy will cover losses and they are all being offered rental cars.

Firefighters stopped the flames from claiming Connie Blasier's home. But at just 100 feet from Les Schwab they couldn't stop thick smoke from enveloping it.

"It was all the way in our house," she said. "When my daughter got here the smoke was in the house."

Blasier wasn't home at the time but family members rushed to defend her property.

"My son was told to leave, and he's like, 'Wait a second, it's my Mom's house, we gotta get these vehicles.'"

In the end her cars were cleared out and her home didn't suffer any significant smoke damage.

Even with the loss of Myrick's car and the near loss of a home for Blasier, both women could only think about Les Schwab employees.

"I'm just thankful that nobody got hurt and injured during the fire," Myrick said.

"It's sad because there're a lot of boys over there that work really hard and they need their jobs," Blasier said. "And hopefully they can rebuild and get back or get them into someplace where they're working again."

Those employees are working again. They've been placed in nearby Les Schwab stores.