Fire destroys Sweet Home Lanes bowling alley

Sean C. Morgan

A fire destroyed Sweet Home Lanes and the apartment occupied by the owners early Friday morning, Jan. 28.

The Sweet Home Fire and Ambulance District received the call at 2:25 a.m. and responded to 2435 Main St., where firefighters found the interior of the bowling center on fire. Jets of flames shot through vents in the roof.

Owners Ron and Maryanne Rettke escaped the fire with minor injuries – cuts they sustained while going through a window. They were treated on scene by Sweet Home paramedics and were taken later to Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital by a family member where they received stitches.

The Rettkes were sleeping in their apartment area above the bowling center when the fire started. Ron said he awakened to the sound of the flames below. He checked the stairwell. Finding it blocked by fire, he and Maryanne broke out a window and made it onto the roof above the entryway.

Firefighters used a ladder to help them down. Within minutes the bowstring truss roof above the bowling lanes collapsed, and the fire spread quickly through the apartment.

“The biggest challenge with this fire was the bowstring truss construction of the bowling alley,” said Fire Chief Mike Beaver. When one truss fails, they all fail; and that type of roof fails early, keeping firefighters from entering the building.

From the moment the firefighters arrived, they were fighting the fire defensively, Beaver said, while the concrete exterior walls helped protect the neighboring Skyline Inn Restaurant, firefighters and firefighting equipment from the heat.

“Our aerials worked great once we established enough water to make them work properly,” Beaver said. Once the roof collapsed, it released the majority of the heat and firefighters were mainly dealing with a burning pile of debris on the floor of structure.

“The folks were very fortunate to get out,” Beaver said.

“The bottom line: The community lost a business, and we can’t afford to lose any businesses,” Beaver said.

The property was insured.

Red Cross and the Trauma Intervention Program personnel responded, and Red Cross provided motel accommodations, basic supplies and vouchers for clothing and other necessities to the Rettkes.

The cause has yet to be determined, Beaver said. Local firefighters and the Fire Investigation Task Force are planning to investigate the fire Saturday morning after the building finishes cooling.

An account to receive cash donations has been set up for the Rettkes under Sweet Home Lanes and Ron Rettke at Wells Fargo bank and Umpqua, and the Chamber of Commerce will receive item donations, including clothing, supplies, furniture and other household goods, during office hours, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. After hours and over the weekend, contact Manager Andrea Culy at (541) 401-3631.

The family lost all of their possessions in the fire. For clothing donations, Ron’s sizes are 2x-plus for shirts, 50/33 in pants and 10 1/2 to 11 wide in shoes. Maryanne needs 3x tops and pants and 8 to 9 wide for shoes.

Sweet Home Fire and Ambulance District received assistance from the Lebanon and Brownsville fire departments, Sweet Home Police Department, Linn County Sheriff’s Office, Sweet Home Public Works and the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Some 40 firefighters from Sweet Home and Lebanon responded with two aerial trucks and seven engines.