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.