Susan Moen and Phil Saunders had just bought their RV in April. But on Wednesday afternoon a fire engulfed the vehicle while on a pit stop in Pendleton.
Although fire crews put out the flames it was unsalvageable. It now sits in The Saddle Restaurant and Lounge parking lot as a blackened shell.
Moen and Saunders, from Portland, spent three months refurbishing their new purchase. They bought a carburetor, cleaned the fuel tank, installed a rug and vinyl in the interior and painted it, Moen said. They just left home yesterday for plans of a weeklong road trip visiting various family members in Boise, Lewiston and Spokane. They stopped at the Saddle Restaurant and Lounge on Southeast Court Avenue to eat lunch a little after noon. An hour later, Saunders started the RV to leave and smelled smoke, said Moen. He flipped up the engine cover in the interior of the vehicle and flames started shooting out, she said.
Moen’s first thought was of her new decorations.
“I wanted to grab pillows and throw them out the door, but it went so fast,” she said.
No one was hurt in the blaze. Moen grabbed her walker, her dog Roscoe and his leash, and Saunders grabbed Moen’s purse and his backpack before the flames consumed the rest of the RV.
Pendleton Fire Department interim assistant chief Greg Lacquement said the fire burnt through to the rear of the RV, but by his estimates took them less than 10 minutes to extinguish. He said from their perspective the vehicle was a total loss, but that is ultimately for the insurance company to decide.
The fire shut down Court Avenue near the Highway 11 intersection for about an hour.
It was an older RV, from 1985, but it only had 38,000 miles on it when they bought it, said Moen. She said it didn’t drive well at first because it hadn’t been used for some time, but that’s why they were refurbishing it. They had the air conditioning, heating and electrical checked out in Portland last week and everything appeared to be fine, she said.
They were planning to pack up Moen’s house when they got home to Portland, so they could rent it out and embark on a yearlong trip visiting national parks and museums.
“We were telling all the neighbors we were having an RV open house with champagne and cookies,” she said.
Moen said she has friends who live in Pendleton and Hermiston, but doesn’t know what they will do next.