DALLAS — On the morning of July 26, Andrea Barnhart took a photo of the sunrise.
The glowing, beautiful morning gave the impression that is was the start of good day.
Not much time passed before she realized nothing wouldn’t go as planned for her or her co-workers at Weston K. Morrill Family Dentistry.
At about 6:30 a.m., Rusty Morrill got a call from his office’s alarm system saying the building was on fire. Not long after that, Jennifer Welch, who was in Salem with her father as he was getting ready for emergency bypass surgery, noticed a post on the Dallas Community Bulletin Board Facebook page of a structure on fire.
“I said, ‘That looks like my office,’” Welch said last week. “I said ‘Dad, I think my work’s on fire.’”
Barnhart, Welch, Morrill, Kelly Davis, Shelly Fleeman and Shonie Pittman — a crew that has worked together for 15 years and considers the office their second home — converged on the Ellendale Plaza suite that has housed Morrill’s practice for 25 years. It was engulfed in flames.
Morrill said he was relieved to see familiar faces battling the fire.
“It was just so comforting the friends that I know that are firefighters and police,” he said.
Welch said firefighters — which were called in from Dallas, Polk No. 1 and Southwest Polk — limited the damage.
“That was amazing. It was a nasty, nasty fire and they did everything they could to get in there and try to fight it, protecting the houses and McDonald’s and other buildings,” Welch said. “The fire department was phenomenal and the police. Everybody that showed up.”
While the fire took most of the equipment and supplies in the office, a firefighter saved something critical to the office getting back on its feet.
“You know when you watch movies, and out comes the firefighter with the baby?” Morrill said. “Well, here he comes out with our server. That was big.”
All the office records are intact and secure, Morrill said.
After the flames were out, the care and concern started pouring in. The building, which was home to Morrill’s office, an Allstate office and a vacant unit, was destroyed. It will take eight to 10 months to rebuild, but Morrill is happy that they will be able to return.
“It’s our home. That’s where we’ve been for 25 years,” he said. “That’ where I’ve gone for 25 years.”
In the meantime, Morrill said every dentist office in Dallas has offered his crew space to work until they can move back in.
Morrill will temporarily operate out of Dr. Bart Carter’s Orthodontist office at 410 E. Ellendale No. 4. Carter uses the office one or two days per week, so Morrill’s crew can use it the rest of the time.
Morrill said they will open at the temporary location this week and will work Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and maybe Saturdays to catch up with patients who missed appointments because of the fire. The mailing address, 289 E. Ellendale Ave. suite 201, and phone 503-623-6616, for the office remain the same.
Morrill said dental offices from across the state and in Washington and California have contacted him with offers of equipment and supplies.
Welch said the Dallas community has been generous, offering to help and even bringing them food as they sort through what it takes to recover from such a disaster.
“That’s the reason that Dallas is so important to us all,” Morrill said.
The fire remains under investigation. Welch said investigators told them that it started in the bark dust near their office, but it hasn’t been determined whether the cause is accidental or arson.
Last week, Welch joked that the rebuilt office will have a moat around it.
“You’ve got to have a sense of humor,” she said.
“We’ve been together a long time,” Morrill said. “I think that’s the way you get through it.”