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Firefighters in Molalla wrap up for night without finding man missing after fire

Firefighters in Molalla wrapped up investigative activities at around 6:30 p.m. Thursday without finding a man missing after a fire destroyed two historic buildings the night before. (Photo courtesy Canby Fire District.)

Update: Firefighters say they found the missing man around 1 p.m. on Friday. They say the victim is Guy Tolstead, 54.




Original story:

Firefighters in Molalla wrapped up investigative activities at around 6:30 p.m. Thursday without finding a man missing after a fire destroyed two historic buildings the night before.

The firefighters spent the day surveying the scene and digging through debris. As of Thursday evening, investigators could still not say how the fire started.

Firefighters said at around 11:45 p.m. Wednesday the fire broke out inside a building at 112 North Molalla Avenue across the street from City Hall. It housed Tommi's Country Boutique, which Molalla residents said has been closed and boarded up for a while. The Molalla Historical Society claims the building was constructed in the 1800s and is the oldest commercial building in Molalla.

Canby Fire District Division Chief Todd Gary said the flames spread from the inside out to the Bentley Feed Store next door. He did not believe the fire was intentionally set though admitted he was unsure of the cause.

Gary said a mother and son were living in the boutique building and they're not sure where he is.

"It was a mother and a grown son," Gary told a KATU reporter Thursday afternoon. "The investigator said that she heard the smoke alarm and that she got out. She wasn't sure if he was home or not. She wasn't positive at that time. ... We have a fear of collapse and actually the second floor has fallen under the first floor, so we've got a lot of stuff just laying there. So what happens when you move that? We don't know when we start moving things around, are we going to have a total collapse of the walls?"

Gary said firefighters were able to rip the roof off the back part of the boutique Thursday afternoon, which is why they could dig around more safely inside that part of the building Thursday evening. He said they'll rip the front part of the roof off Friday and continue searching for the missing man, who's believed to be in his 50s.

Meanwhile, Brian Bentley, a co-owner of the Bentley Feed Store, told a KATU reporter his family's owned it for around 60 years. He and other relatives said it looks like a total loss and for now he, his wife and two part-time employees are out of a job.

Bentley said they did have fire insurance and he hopes to rebuild the business in the same location as soon as possible.


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