Eagle Point, Ore. – The Christmas morning fire that burned down the historic Butte Creek Mill in Eagle Point has been ruled accidental, according to Jackson County Fire District 3.
Officials with Fire District 3 said that over the last two months evidence has been gathered by fire investigators and insurance companies. Based upon that evidence, officials determined the fire originated in a concealed space in between the ceiling of the milling room and the floor of the second story. Fire Marshal John Patterson said heat was generated from an electrical malfunction which led to the ignition of the fire.
“That large concealed space held we believe a lot of smoldering embers a lot of preheated gas a lot of smoke that wanted to burn and was just waiting for oxygen,” Patterson said.
Investigators said the structural members between the first and second floors eventually collapsed and pushed the fire into the lobby and adjacent rooms. The exposed wood construction was easily ignited and the fire spread rapidly until the entire structure was engulfed.
Patterson said building damage and structural instability slowed the progress of their investigation.
After a Tuesday press conference, Butte Creek Mill owner Bob Russell talked about the future of the mill. “You kind of wake up in the morning and hope it’s all a dream,” he said. Russell then thanked the community and the world for all the support, and promised to rebuild the mill to it’s original 1872 structure.
“I feel like we’re on to phase two. We’re really charged up and ready to go and looking forward to having it rise from the ashes here,” Russell said.
He said actor Jim Belushi has agreed to hold a benefit concert to raise money for the project. He hopes to have a full architectural plan done by May, and be rebuilding by this time next year.
(File photo of Butte Creek Mill from January 5, 2016)
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