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Blocked door leads to pair's death in fire.

Byline: Bill Bishop The Register-Guard

Two people who died in a fire at their home in Eugene late Sunday apparently tried to get out through a door that was blocked by a heavy bookcase, fire officials said Monday.

Firefighters found Jay McCune, 59, and his wife of 36 years, Helen McCune, 58, after being called to their manufactured home at 1415 Bertelsen Road, Space 73, just before 10 p.m.

A fire investigator was unable to determine the cause of the fire, which started near the sliding glass door that served as the only exit, Eugene Fire Department spokesman Glen Potter said. The fire destroyed the home and most of its contents, including evidence of whether there were working smoke detectors inside.

"The house had a lot of combustibles in storage. It appears the victims were crawling in the house, searching for a way out and were overcome by smoke," Deputy Fire Marshal Greg Musil said. "They had one of their primary exits blocked by a bookcase. The fire was by their main, and only, exit."

Helen McCune loved to read and owned thousands of books, according to her daughter, Shirley Shilling.

Jay McCune, a Korean War veteran, was retired and often volunteered in the community and at a family business, Figaro's Pizza, according to his son, Tim McCune. The father and son were avid auto racers in Roseburg and Lebanon, and had just bought a new race car, Tim McCune said Monday, as he and other relatives examined the fire scene.

The close-knit family often gathered for sports such as water-skiing, Tim McCune said. Shilling said the couple had three children and six grandchildren.

"We are fanatic on extreme sports kinds of things. We tried to do a lot of family sports things together," McCune said. "My mom and dad were happy together."

He said the family is in shock. "It kind of feels like a dream," McCune said. "We'll get the family together and figure out what to do. It's hard now."

Flames had engulfed the house by the time firefighters arrived and found neighbors shouting that people were inside, Potter said. Firefighters in breathing gear immediately went into the home to attempt a rescue, he said.

The tragedy is a sad reminder for residents to ensure they have at least two ways to evacuate in case of fire and to test smoke detectors at least once each month, Musil said.

CAPTION(S):

Tim McCune stands outside the home on Monday where his parents died in a fire the night before. Fire officials said a bookcase had blocked their escape. Paul Carter / The Register-Guard
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Title Annotation:Fires
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Feb 14, 2006
Words:436
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