A La Pine man was cited early Saturday morning after threatening deputies and refusing to leave a burning building because he was looking for a cat, according to the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office.
La Pine Rural Fire Protection crews and DCSO deputies responded to a fire at High Lakes Towing and Recovery on Burgess Road just after 1 a.m. Crews arrived to find the west half of the shop engulfed in flames extending through the roof.
Several vehicles near the shop including a 5th-wheel RV were also on fire, said Sgt. Shawn Heierman. Residents nearby needed to be evacuated.
While firefighters were on scene, 54-year-old Eddie Newingham, an employee of High Lakes Towing, refused to leave the burning building because he was worried about a missing cat, Heierman said.
Newingham repeatedly went in and out of the building looking for the cat, which halted the efforts of the firefighters.
Heierman said Newingham was being aggressive and confrontational toward the deputies while they tried to get him to cooperate.
“Newingham was ordered to leave the burning building numerous times, but continued to do so while armed with 2 long handle axes that he used to menace law enforcement deputies who approached him,” Heierman said.
Eventually, Newingham was cordoned off from the area in an adjacent fenced area and coaxed into giving up the axe handles. Heierman said deputies needed to use “further de-escalation techniques” to calm Newingham.
Newingham was cited for interfering with a firefighter, interfering with a police officer and menacing.
The RV was destroyed by the fire, but firefighters were able to stop the fire within the towing company and saved equipment and tools.
Multiple vehicles near the building were damaged, including an old bus, fire officials said.
The fire was under control within 20 minutes, but crews were on the scene for two hours.
Heierman said the fire was believed to have been caused by welding repairs being performed on an RV parked next to the shop.
“Newingham was not cooperative with questions regarding the fire,” Heierman said.