By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News
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“With the cold weather, we're hoping this isn't a harbinger of things to come,” Fire Chief Sam Phillips said.
Temperatures dropped into the high 20s within the past week, increasing the number of heating systems people are using to keep homes warm — and increasing the chance of fires, Phillips said..
The first fire was called in to 9-1-1 at 6:25 p.m. Saturday, when residents at 4123 S. Tiller Road in Port Angeles reported a fire in their detached garage.
Loy and Joleen Bowman told firefighters that the garage was home to nine cats and also contained an automobile, full-size camper and multiple propane tanks.
Fire District 2 responded with two engines, two water tenders, two command vehicles and 15 firefighters, and was assisted by the Port Angeles Fire Department with an engine and three firefighters.
When the first unit arrived, the wood-frame garage was completely involved, with “flames emanating 30 feet into the air with multiple explosions going off,” Phillips said.
“The roof was falling inward,s and the four walls were standing,” he said.
Firefighters had water on the fire within a minute of the first arriving engine and were able to prevent the fire spreading to a nearby home and wood shed.
Initial damage estimates for the structure were around $100,000.
As of Sunday afternoon, eight of the cats were found safe, Phillips said.
A ninth cat may have escaped and not returned yet, he said.
Fire investigators said they suspected that the use of a wood stove, along with portable heaters and a heat lamp, to keep the cats warm might have ignited nearby combustibles.
The second structure fire was reported at 7:07 a.m. Sunday.
Fred McGee of 292 Mount Pleasant Road in Port Angeles phoned 9-1-1 to report a roof fire at his two-story home.
Phillips said residents had attempted to extinguish the fire, which spread from cracks in the masonry chimney to the structure of the house.
Fire District No. 2 responded with 11 firefighters, two engines and two command vehicles, and extinguished the fire.
An initial damage estimate came in at approximately $10,000, according to fire officials.
There was an operating smoke detector on the first floor but not on the second, Phillips said.
Phillips said he wanted to remind area residents to take the following winter heating safety measures.
-- Special attention should be paid to all types of heating devices, including leaving a minimum of 3 feet of clearance around portable heaters and stoves.
-- Chimneys should be thoroughly inspected and cleaned before use, and stoves should never be overloaded with wood.
-- Every level of every home should have a smoke detector and carbon monoxide alarm near sleeping areas.
Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at email@example.com.