By Courtney Sherwood
PORTLAND, Ore. (Reuters) - A historic Oregon baseball stadium was destroyed on Monday in a blaze that prompted evacuations of several dozen homes within a two-block radius.
The vacant Civic Stadium in Eugene was engulfed in flames shooting twice the building's height when firefighters arrived on Monday evening, police said in a statement.
The structure was scheduled to break ground on a major expansion and renovation in July after a years-long public campaign, according to local non-profit Eugene Civic Alliance.
"We will be looking at the cause. However, the dry condition of the timber in this particular structure, it just took off, and there's not much you can do about that," Eugene-Springfield fire chief Randy Groves told local newspaper the Register-Guard. He said no one was injured.
Police said emergency personnel were working to ensure the area was safe before letting people back home, adding that 38 firefighters battled the blaze for over two hours.
Pictures published online by local media showed only a charred and broken skeletal frame of the once venerable stadium.
Civic Stadium was built in 1938 by the unemployed workers who enlisted in the Great Depression-Era Works Progress Administration.
It hosted high-school sports, rodeo competitions and was one of the oldest operating Major League Baseball stadiums in the country, according to its listing on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
It was also one of only a dozen wooden ballparks left in the United States, according to the national register.
The Eugene Civic Alliance had spent years negotiating purchase of the stadium site and developing plans to renovate the structure and expand it to add additional fields. The group planned to break ground on these upgrades next month, according to its website.
"Like the rest of the community, we are stunned by the fire today that destroyed the Civic Stadium grandstand," the Civic Alliance said in a statement.
"It is too early for us to know where we go from here. We ask for a bit of grace and patience as we come to grips with this loss to our community and to our effort," it added.
(Editing by Curtis Skinner and Ryan Woo)