Fire damages popular College Place bakery

A blaze broke out Tuesday afternoon at Rogers' Bakery and Cafe, apparently starting in a light fixture.

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College Place and Walla Walla firefighters work to extinguish a fire at Roger's Bakery and Cafe on North College Avenue in College Place Tuesday afternoon.

COLLEGE PLACE -- An apparent electrical malfunction ignited a fire at Rogers' Bakery and Cafe Tuesday afternoon, shutting the eatery down temporarily.

The fire is believed to have started shortly before 4 p.m. at the popular bakery, located at 116 N. College Ave.

Firefighters from College Place were aided by crews from Walla Walla City Fire and Walla Walla District 4. Although the fire was out by about 4:30 p.m., College Place crews remained on scene to assess the damage. College Avenue was closed between C Street to about Whitman Drive while emergency vehicles occupied most of the street. The fire drew dozens of onlookers, who stood near the bakery and across the street while the firefighters worked.

The bakery is owned by Lenny and Kelli Leen, who were among those standing outside as they waited for an okay to enter the building and be briefed on the damages.

Kelli Leen was working in the cafe taking some last orders before closing for the day, when she said customers alerted her and the staff to an overhead light fixture popping.

Leen said the fixture popped, and nothing more came of it, initially.

"We thought everything was OK," she said. As a precaution and on a customer's suggestion, she called the city's fire department anyway. And while she was on the phone, flames started to shoot from the ceiling, she said.

"I grabbed my employees and ran out the door," Leen said, joining their customers outside, although she made a quick trip back inside to grab her purse. Her cell phone she left to the fate of the flames.

"That was a little further in," she said. As they exited employees also grabbed the store's cash register, which was recently purchased to replace an older, damaged model.

A firefighter eventually grabbed Leen's cell phone from the business once the fire was out, and returned it to her, undamaged.

College Place Fire Marshall John Boose said part of the work after extinguishing a fire is collecting salvaged items and letting the owner's know the building's soundness.

It was unclear at the time when Rogers' would reopen, although opening for service Wednesday was not expected. A city firefighter said this morning damages would be calculated over the next few days, but that a preliminary investigation showed the fire did indeed spark by a light fixture in the dining area.

Maria P. Gonzalez can be reached at mariagonzalez@wwub.com or 526-8317. Check out her blog at blogs.ublabs.org/schoolhousemissives.

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