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Eviction sparks gunshots, fire

The Dalles firefighters locate body in gutted house Monday

AN OSP SWAT team in an armored vehicle from Salem waits outside a home on Mt. Hood Street where shots were heard and a fire erupted a short time later. OSP uses a loudspeaker to warn anyone inside to come out before entry was forced.

Mark B. Gibson
AN OSP SWAT team in an armored vehicle from Salem waits outside a home on Mt. Hood Street where shots were heard and a fire erupted a short time later. OSP uses a loudspeaker to warn anyone inside to come out before entry was forced.

An attempt by the Wasco County Sheriff’s office to serve eviction papers Monday morning to a man at 1100 Mt. Hood Street led to a shooting and fire that gutted the residence.

The body of an unidentified individual was located when law enforcement officials had secured the scene and firefighters were sent inside.

Chief Deputy Lane Magill would not confirm whether the deceased person was the individual who was being served with court papers.

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A SWAT team robot is moved clear as firefighters prepare to battle the blaze. The robot was unable to be used because of the flames and heavy smoke. A ladder truck provided the first attack, hosing down a neighboring house and then shifting to the burning residence.

He said an autopsy would be performed March 17, to confirm the identity of the person.

The name of the recipient for the eviction papers was William Rengigas, 59.

Magill said arson investigators from the Oregon State Police will determine the origin of the fire.

“I have never dealt with anything like this during my career,” said Magill. “Our number one concern in this incident was safety – for the neighbors, the law enforcement officers and the firefighters.”

He said deputies arrived at the house shortly before 8:30 a.m. to serve the papers. After knocking on the door, they heard about five gunshots inside the residence.

“At that point the deputies retreated to a safe distance and we called for reinforcement,” said Magill. “We did not know what we were dealing with – whether someone was deceased inside the house or holed up with a weapon.”

The Oregon State Police and The Dalles Police Department sent officers to the scene. Although the house was located within the city limits, Magill said the sheriff’s office took command because the incident had started with the arrival of deputies.

Several minutes after the shots were fired, smoke began to emerge from inside the house. Officers had perimeter that closed off several streets to vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

“There was some chatter on social media that we had started the fire but that is absolutely not the case,” said Magill.

Due to the potential severity of the situation, he said residents in the immediate area were evacuated for their own safety. Colonel Wright and St. Mary’s schools were also put on lockdown.

Firefighters from Mid-Columbia Fire and Rescue staged nearby but Magill said they could not access the house until it was deemed safe for them to do so.

Hood River and Dallesport firefighters and medics provided coverage of the local area during the crisis.

Unsure whether someone was still alive and waiting in the house with a weapon, the sheriff’s office brought in the Oregon State Police SWAT team.

Although OSP attempted to deploy a robot to enter the house and use cameras to scout out the situation, the fire prevented that from happening.

Deputies tried to make contact with the resident via a loud speaker, there was no response from the occupant of the house. OSP used a loud speaker from an armored vehicle brought to the scene but was also unable to gain a response.

After several hours, an OSP SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) team breached the front door of the residence with the armored vehicle and, simultaneously, the rear of the house became fully engulfed in flames.

No one exited the structure so SWAT retreated and Mid-Columbia Fire began to apply water to neighboring homes, as well as extinguish the flames in the residence.

Northern Wasco County PUD was asked to cut power to that area to avoid potential problems during firefighting activities.

After the blaze was extinguished, about six hours later, firefighters entered the residence and found one deceased person and several dead dogs.

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