George Sutton arrived early to work on Tuesday (Aug. 14) after fire department officials phoned him at 6 a.m. to say a blaze had sparked at his recreational vehicle dealership in Eugene, Ore.
“We saw the flames on the way here,” Sutton recalled of the hectic trip he and his wife, Martha, made from their home to the business at 2400 W. Seventh Ave.
The Register-Guard reported that once at the scene, the Suttons found firefighters working to tame a hot-burning blaze that police suspect was intentionally set outside a dealership office building.
Eugene police Det. Steve Williams, an arson investigator, said there was no clear link between the RV dealership fire and a pair of suspicious blazes that ignited Monday morning off River Road in the Santa Clara area. One of those fires damaged two businesses.
“Having this number of fires in close proximity makes you wonder, but there’s nothing to directly tie them at this point,” Williams said as he surveyed the damage.
Firefighters on Tuesday responded to the RV dealership after a passing motorist reported seeing a fire burning underneath a picnic table that sat outside an office building nicknamed “Camp Sutton.” Flames quickly spread to the wooden building itself, causing extensive damage to the interior and exterior.
Fire officials estimated the fire had caused $50,000 to $60,000 in damage. The building housed the RV dealership’s sales and finance offices, as well as his and his wife’s business offices. No one was hurt in the fire and the business remains open.
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Oregon RV manufacturers and dealers say sales continue to rise since the recession. Perhaps the biggest indicator of that is the activity at the Oregon RV Show and Sale which concluded on Sunday (March 6) at the Lane County Fairgrounds.
Dealers say the big improvements this year are lighter RVs that are also more fuel-efficient. Sutton RV General Manager Eric Benson says last year was basically the kickoff for lightweight sales. He says a small, silver RV is his top seller right now, and says he’s never before seen more sales in this line of lightweights.
Last year, he says they increased by 40%. So this year, he brought in four different lines.
“Right now, we’re on pace to do another 30% increase this year even with the gas prices the way they are. So lightweight is the key to the market right now.”
“It’s growing across the nation. Every show we’ve talked to has had more and more people coming this year than last year so we are expecting an increase as people gain confidence,” said Dave Weinkauf, Oregon Show Promotions.
Weinkauf ran the RV show, and he says everything, not just the lightweights, is now more fuel-efficient, even the motorhomes.
And with that, Benson says most models have been redesigned since the recession to be more affordable. He says some cost 20% to 30% less than a few years ago.
While you might not be able to tell from the outside that some models have become more fuel-efficient, one surely sticks out.
The Element by Evergreen Recreational Vehicles LLC made its first appearance at an Oregon RV show this past weekend.
Designer Dan Rodabaugh says the streamline shape and that fact that it runs on a single axle, instead of a duel axle, helps it save on gas.
As for the shape, Rodabaugh says he was inspired by boats.
He calls the Element a yacht on wheels because most of the materials come from the marine industry. They’re waterproof and rotproof.
“I’ve always been in the marine lifestyle and so when I got into the RV industry I noticed there was maybe a little bit of a lack of styling and detail,” Rodabaugh said.
The Element runs for $47,860 and is now available at Sutton RV in Eugene.