Investigators seek cause of fire at historic Meadowland Dairy

Firefighters were able to save the 1892 Victorian farmhouse and surrounding buildings, but neighbors raise questions about how the massive barn caught fire …

Fire trucks and engines pull up to the property, preparing to fight the fire just north of Powell Butte, in the Centennial Community Association neighborhood.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Long a landmark in outer East Portland, at the foot of Powell Butte, the Meadowland Dairy’s barn is now a charred ruin.

Strong winds whipped fire in the 25′ x 50′ barn at 16134 SE Powell Boulevard into a blazing inferno by the time crews from Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) and Gresham Fire arrived at about 4:50 p.m. on February 1.

“The fire is threatening a nearby mobile home park,” PF&R Public Information Officer, Firefighter Paul Corah told us then. “And, firefighters are working diligently to save surrounding houses and mobile homes that are threatened by the flames and heat.”

PF&R firefighters from Truck 7 carry more hose lines to crewmembers on the fire line.

In an effort to save the historic Meadowland Dairy barn, firefighters from Portland and Gresham pull in many hose lines to fight the blaze. Dick Harris, PF&R photo

We watched as firefighters dragged lines from SE Powell back in to, and around, the burning structure. Fire engines pumped such a quantity of water that the pressure eventually dropped throughout the area.

While battling flames at the historic dairy barn, firefighters feared that two homes, including 1892 Victorian farmhouse and shed, could also be set afire.

Wind-whipped flames make it impossible for firefighters to enter the blazing barn. Dick Harris, PF&R photo

In spite of firefighters’ best efforts, the roof of the barn collapses.

“Commanders called for a second alarm, bringing additional firefighters from Portland and Gresham to the scene at 5:00 p.m.,” revaled Corah. “At 5:10 p.m., the barn began collapsing. For firefighter safety, crews were then moved out and away from the barn.”

By 5:14 p.m., crews managed to get the fire under control. But, flames were seen popping up inside the collapsed structure well into the evening hours. “Firefighters stayed on-scene, looking for hotspots,” Corah confirmed.

Fire flares up in a west-side section of the Meadowland Dairy barn.

Historic East County dairy
Just after the turn of the last century, the Henry and Anna Anderegg family emigrated from Switzerland and started farming in the area.

For many years, the Anderegg family pastured 600 to 800 dairy cows when they opened Mountain View Dairy, later renamed Meadowland Dairy. In 1948, their daughter, Lillian Anderegg, married Wayne Adams, who had worked at the dairy as a young boy. He continued to farm the property until his death 1989.

Lillian Adams went on to develop Meadowcrest Farm Estates. The family home, protected and saved by firefighters, is filled with heirlooms and photos of cows and the dairy operation.

As the sun sets, crews shift from active firefighting to “fire watch” – keeping an eye out for hotspots that could rekindle the fire.

“We are saddened about the loss of this piece Portland’s history,” reflected Corah. He added that, given the number and proximity of homes to the fire – and the gusting east winds – the loss could have been much worse.

“Most importantly, firefighters were able to save the surrounding homes, and nobody was hurt,” concluded Corah.

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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