Dies from injuries sustained in barn fire

Austin Smith, 30, has been identified as the St. Paul Fire District member killed in the fire

Duty Death: Austin Smith

 Zane Sparling


ST. PAUL, Ore. — A volunteer firefighter attempting to extinguish a Marion County barn blaze died Thursday after the fire set off a powerful blast, authorities say.

Austin Smith was taking part in "defensive operations" after the agricultural structure on Champoeg Creek Lane Northeast caught fire at about 4 a.m., according to St. Paul Rural Fire Protection District Chief Bryan Lee.

Something in the barn unexpectedly exploded, critically injuring Smith, 30, officials said. Paramedics who were already at the scene rushed to treat Smith, who was flown to OHSU Hospital, where he died.


He's survived by his wife and extended family members.

Officials said the cause of the fire could take days to determine, as investigators must first ensure the property is safe to inspect.

"We in the community are absolutely heartbroken over this loss," Lee said.

Aerial footage from KGW (8) showed the barn's ruptured roof cut open like confetti paper, with large pieces of debris spread over the yard of Champoeg Farm, an independent turkey operation located about 10 miles north of Woodburn.

Messages sent to the farm were not immediately answered. A spokesperson for the Marion County Sheriff's Office told the Oregonian/OregonLive no one else was injured in the blast.

Smith began volunteering as a firefighter in 2015. His family's roots in the area date back to the founding of the St. Paul Rodeo in the 1930s, according to Mark Daniel, a spokesperson for the fire district.

"He and his family are entrenched in the very culture and what this community does every day and what it means," Daniel said. "He will be sorely missed. It's felt very, very deeply in our community."

Marion County commissioners offered their "prayers and deepest condolences" to Smith's loved ones and area residents.

"Our firefighters across the country are heroes, serving and protecting us all," the commissioners said in a statement. "We are always humbled by their service, and our hearts are heavy with this loss."

 Advance Local Media LLC

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