Firefighters cut into an exterior wall to reach the crematorium chimney at Keizer Funeral Chapel Monday, Dec. 12. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Firefighters cut into an exterior wall to reach the crematorium chimney at Keizer Funeral Chapel Monday, Dec. 12. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

A chimney fire in the crematorium at Keizer Funeral Chapel on River Road North, kept crews from throughout the region busy Monday, Dec. 12.

The Keizer Fire District, Marion County Fire District No. 1 and Salem Fire Department all responded to the call that came in shortly after 5:30 p.m. and remained on the scene for several hours making sure it was doused.

Firefighters arrived on the scene to smoke coming out from eaves all around the building, but no visible flames. The source of the smoke was determined to be the chimney of the business’ crematorium.

“It was glowing red hot and there was wood frame around it and that was beginning to smolder. The ceiling is 10 foot high, but there is an attic space that we had to get into to get at the chimney,” said Chief Jeff Cowan, of the Keizer Fire District, about 90 minutes into the battle. “It’s not real complex, and the smoke is a good color now.”

A tile roof and thick siding complicated the attack and a large section of the exterior wall had to be removed in the hours that followed the initial call.

The funeral director noticed the smoke as he was leaving for the evening and got the one remaining employee out of the building.

“He reported having trouble with the retort of the crematorium where they put the bodies in throughout the day,” said Anne-Marie Storms, KFD spokesperson. “They shut it down and tried to cool it down, but in the meantime this occurred.”

Repair technicians had already been scheduled to come out and look at the problem the following day.

In all, seven engines, four medic units, one ladder truck, a support vehicle and a duty officer responded to the fire.

Storms said it probably seemed like a lot for drivers as they passed, but “just getting to the chimney is wearing out a lot of our guys.”

Cowan and Storms reminded city residents to have their chimneys inspected and cleaned annually before using them and to check smoke detectors.