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La Pine man charged with wielding 2 axes, entering burning shop to save cat

High Lakes Towing fire DCSO 613
Deschutes County Sheriff's Office
RV fire spread into High Lakes Towing on Burgess Road in La Pine early Saturday morning
High Lakes Towing fire La Pine F&R 613
La Pine Rural Fire District
Despite allegedly ax-wielding man's interruption, La Pine fire crews were able to save part of tow company, equipment and tools

La PINE, Ore. (KTVZ) – A La Pine towing company worker who kept going back into the burning business to look for a missing cat early Saturday morning interfered with firefighting efforts and was cited for threatening Deschutes County sheriff’s deputies with two axes for trying to stop him, officials said.

Sheriff’s deputies and La Pine Rural Fire Protection District crews responded shortly after 1 a.m. to the reported structure and RV fire at High Lakes Towing and Recovery on Burgess Road, Sgt. Shawn Heierman said. Fire officials said a passer-by called 911 dispatchers to report the blaze.

Fifteen firefighters on an engine, two tenders and several command vehicles arrived to find a 30-foot RV ablaze and the flames extending into the building.

Deputies found the west half of the shop engulfed, with flames coming through the roof, Heierman said. Several vehicles and a fifth-wheel RV also were ablaze, he said, and some nearby residents were quickly evacuated for their safety. Burgess Road also was closed.

Fire officials said crews quickly knocked down the blaze with a deck gun master stream, large hand line and positive-pressure ventilation.

Eddie Newingham, 54, a worker for the tow company, was refusing to leave the burning building due to his concerns over a missing cat, Heierman said.

Firefighters’ efforts to save the burning building were temporarily halted due to Newingham repeatedly going back inside, the sergeant said.

“Newingham exhibited an aggressive and confrontational demeanor toward law enforcement during their attempts to gain his cooperation,” Heierman wrote in a news release.

"Newingham was ordered to leave the burning building numerous times, but continued to (go in) while armed with two long-handle axes that he used to menace law enforcement deputies who approached him.”

Eventually, Newingham was cordoned off from the burning shop in an adjacent fenced area. The sergeant said he “was coaxed into relinquishing the axes he was carrying, and deputies used further de-escalation techniques to calm Newingham’s aggressive behavior.”

Fire officials said the RV was destroyed, but firefighters were able to stop the structure fire, saving equipment and tools. Several nearby vehicles were damaged, including an old bus. Firefighters had control of the fire within 20 minutes and were on scene for two hours.

The business owner was out of town but was contacted by phone.

Newingham was not cooperative with questions regarding the fire, Heierman said, but it apparently was caused by welding and cutting repairs being performed on the RV next to the shop.

Newingham was issued a criminal citation on charges of interfering with a firefighter, interfering with a police officer and menacing.

The sheriff’s office thanked the La Pine Fire District and Sunriver Police Department for their assistance.

No cat was ever seen or found on scene, Heierman said.

Central Oregon / Crime And Courts / La Pine / News / Top Stories

Barney Lerten

Barney is the digital content director for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Barney here.



    1. Classic LaPine story! I love it!! If only he had guns!! Everything would of course been much safer if he had been carrying, you know, to be safe and all. Poor cat. RIP

  1. “Newingham was ordered to leave the burning building numerous times, but continued to do so while armed with two long-handle axes that he used to menace law enforcement deputies who approached him.”

    – to do so, what?

  2. Did anyone reassure him they’re looking to save the cat?
    “Newingham exhibited an aggressive and confrontational demeanor toward law enforcement ”
    The same tired old, chestnut, as the LEO s attempt to frame the debate and frame the citizen.
    Just because they COULD citation or arrest someone doesn’t mean they SHOULD.

    1. Highly doubt any of them (firefighters or police) volunteered to go in a burning structure to save a cat, which is why he kept going in. Someone might have volunteered if it was a dog instead of a cat because this area is dog central and people feel their dogs are their children but can’t understand someone having those feelings towards a cat.

  3. I’m not surprised things got weird. Does anyone else remember the last time High Lakes Towing was in the news? Their driver killed another driver when the tow truck failed to stop and plowed over the top of an elderly gentleman in his little truck right in front of the Corner Store.

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