Early Wednesday evening, Eugene Fire Department responded to a fire at Southtowne Lanes on Willamette Street and 24th Avenue. As of 7 p.m. Wednesday, access has been restricted on Willamette Street between 24th and 27th avenues.

According to Alan Gerard, a Eugene fire marshal at the site of the fire, everyone inside the building was evacuated. Several bystanders, including a police officer and two employees from Capella Market across the street said that it appeared no one was hurt.

A.J. Lugo, a Capella store clerk, said he noticed smoke and flames around 3:40 p.m. Soon after, ambulances and fire trucks arrived. “I saw the ambulances come, but nobody got taken away,” he said.

Gerard said that his crew got the call around 3:55 p.m., informing them of loud crackling sounds and smoke coming from the rear of the building. They arrived shortly after to find that the back side of the building was on fire.

In the following 30 minutes, the fire enveloped the entire building, and the roof soon collapsed. The firefighters successfully contained the fire, so it did not spread to any nearby structures.

For much of the afternoon, the neighboring building, Polansky Gross dental clinic, had not been evacuated. 

“We’re actually still working,” said Debbie Ward, a dental assistant. “We have a couple patients in there. I don’t think they realize how big this is.”

Meanwhile, a crowd of about 80 people gathered to watch from the market parking lot across the street.

  • Southtowne Lanes was fully engulfed in flames late Wednesday afternoon. The fire was called in at 3:55 p.m. (Emerson Malone/Emerald)
  • (Jamie Perry/Emerald)
  • An unofficial watch party for the emergency response to the fire was going on at Capella Market, right across the street from the bowling alley on Willamette Street. (Emerson Malone/Emerald)
  • (Jamie Perry/Emerald)
  • (Jamie Perry/Emerald)
  • (Jamie Perry/Emerald)
  • Nearby streets like 24th and Amazon Parkway are flooded from the fire department response at Southtowne Lanes. (Emerson Malone/Emerald)
  • (Jamie Perry/Emerald)
  • Gerard said that investigators and the crew would likely be at the site overnight to determine the cause and origin of the fire. (Jamie Perry/Emerald)

Approximately 30 firefighters were on the scene as of 5 p.m. attempting to contain the fire.

According to Gerard, the fire is contained. At 6 p.m. the flames were no longer visible from the outside of the building, but smoke continued to billow through the streets, intermittently blocking the sun.

Gerard said it’s going to be a while before the area is cleared and the firefighters leave. He estimates they will be there overnight to ensure no flames hiding underneath the layers of debris. They will continue to flood the building to prevent that.

“It depends on how the material in the roof and all that stacks up,” he said. “If it stacks up in such a way that we can’t get water under it, then we have to overhaul. Overhaul is the process where we go in and chase out all the remaining hidden fires.”

As of now, they do not know the cause of the fire, or whether it started inside or outside the building. Investigation will begin during overhaul, once the area is rendered safe.

This story is developing. More updates will be added as more information is released. In the meantime, follow @dailyemerald and @andrearharvey on Twitter for updates.


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