NORTH BEND — Firefighters overnight battled a fast-burning inferno that started in the abandoned airport hanger near Southwest Oregon Regional Airport.

Despite powerful winds, crews were able to keep the fire from spreading to nearby structures, one of which housed a fuel farm with tanks of flammables, including jet fuel.

“The fire was contained through a huge effort from our people,” said North Bend Assistant Fire Chief Jim Brown. “Our guys did a good job of keeping that in control and using all our skills and training.”

A small part of the building that contained the fuel farm did catch fire, Brown said, but firefighters were able to quickly extinguish those flames.

The old airport hangar on the 1300 block of East Airport Way was almost completely consumed by the fire. Its remnants still burned at 8 a.m. this morning.

The fire call came in just after midnight Tuesday, and within 20 minutes of the Fire Department’s arrival the structure collapsed, Brown said.

The fire’s cause is still unknown.

A few nearby planes on the airport’s tarmac were damaged, and firefighters evacuated a nearby apartment building as a precaution, Brown said.

The fire also knocked out a nearby power line, killing power to hundreds of residents in the Airport Heights and surrounding areas, according to Pacific Power.

Firefighters had the blaze satisfactorily controlled within a couple hours of their arrival on scene.

“But, there was such a huge volume of fire there, we had our hands full,” Brown said. Fire departments from Florence to Bandon responded to help North Bend battle the blaze. North Bend and Coos Bay police and the Coos County Sheriff’s deputies also responded, closing off road access to the area.

The old hangar with the distinctive “North Bend” sign painted across the top was made entirely of wood, and built by the U.S. Navy during World War II.

The airport stored equipment inside the building, and intended to have the structure demolished.

Fire crews will continue knocking down flames, then mopping up hot spots today, Brown said.

Reporter Jessie Higgins can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 240, or jhiggins@theworldlink.com

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