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Fire that destroyed Oregon restaurant was accidental

Published: Monday, March 17, 2014 1:29 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 3:03 p.m. CDT
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Firefighters from eight departments battled a fire at Whiskey's River Smokehouse on the evening of March 17. Photo courtesy of the Mt. Morris Fire Department
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Arson investigator Mitchell S. Kushner and his K9 Zoe walk down the entrance ramp of Whiskey's River Smokehouse Monday morning. The shuttered restaurant burned Sunday night. Photo by Earleen Hinton
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Oregon firefighter Rich Rhoads stands in front of Whiskey's River Smokehouse Monday morning. The restaurant burned Sunday night. Photo by Earleen Hinton

A fire that destroyed a local restaurant Sunday night in Oregon has been determined to be accidental in origin.

Oregon fire officials and investigators from the Office of the State Fire Marshal (OSFM) determined that the fire that destroyed Whiskey's River Smokehouse and the apartment above it, located at  123 N. Second St. was an accident.

"We know it was accidental and started in the basement area, but we don't know the cause yet," Oregon Fire Chief Don Heller said Tuesday afternoon.

Two representatives from the OSFM and a dog went through the inside of the burned-out building on Monday morning.

The restaurant, which has been closed for some time, is located just north of the Oregon Fire Station.

Heller said a jogger saw smoke coming from the structure and flagged down an on-duty Oregon Policeman who alerted the fire department at 8:20 p.m.

The building's owner Kevin Wedel, who lived in the upstairs apartment, was not at home when the fire occurred, Heller said.

Firefighters found heavy smoke when they arrived on the scene.

"The building was still intact and showing a lot of smoke," Heller said.

Oregon firefighters were assisted at the scene by the Mt. Morris, Polo, Byron, Stillman Valley, Franklin Grove, Dixon City, and Dixon Rural Fire Departments and the Oregon Ambulance.

Temperatures in the teens and a brisk wind made fighting the fire difficult, Heller said.

"The cold was the reason we had so many crews there," he said. "That allowed us to change them out often and let them warm up."

Best Beginnings Child Care across the street from the fire was forced to close on Monday due to the smoke inside the building.

Owner Jeff Croegaert said he anticipated the facility would be open as usual on Tuesday.

"The smell of smoke is really strong inside," he said. "We're just airing it out today to be on the safe side."

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