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Fire Crews Lend Hand to Neighbor

Three lives are lost in Coos Bay, Ore. Firefighters from Portland to Klamath Falls offer support.

November 27, 2002|From Associated Press

COOS BAY, Ore. — While investigators Tuesday probed the burned out shell of an auto parts store where three firefighters died, those who survived the blaze put black mourning bands on their badges and hugged weeping friends and family.

An impromptu memorial of flowers, balloons and stuffed animals grew around the firehouse flagpole, which was flying at half staff.

"We're walking in a daze," said firefighter Matt Fare, wiping away tears for his lost friends. "We're all family."

The deaths Monday afternoon of Lt. Randall E. Carpenter, 46; and volunteer firefighters Jeffery E. Common, 30, and R. Chuck Hanners, 33, were the first ever for the Coos Bay Fire Department in the line of duty and marked the worst single loss of firefighters in Oregon, according to a list kept by the Oregon Firefighters Museum.

"This is a huge loss for us," said Mayor Joe Benetti. "We just ask everyone's prayers at this moment."

Fire departments from Portland to Klamath Falls sent crews to spell the Coos Bay firefighters so they could go off duty to mourn their friends.

While firefighters talked in small groups in front of the downtown firehouse, townspeople dropped off mementos, like a sign on the firehouse which said, "We love you Carp, Jeff, Chuck."

"All three of these people are going to be tremendously missed," said Fire Chief Stan Gibson.

Twin investigations led by the State Fire Marshal's Office into the cause of the fire and Oregon Occupational Safety and Healthy Administration into the deaths were continuing.

Authorities said they have no evidence that the fire was intentionally set.

The bodies of Carpenter and Common were found on the mezzanine after the roof collapsed and Hanners was found at the base of the stairs leading to the mezzanine, officials said. Hanners died after being taken to Bay Area Hospital.

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