Salvaging effort starts at burned DNR building in Forks
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Lonnie Archibald/Peninsula Daily News
Dave Cole of the stat Department of Natural Resources stands in front of the burned-out building in Forks on Monday.

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

FORKS — A 20-foot container was due to arrive at the state Department of Natural Resources' Olympic Region complex Monday to help store salvaged items from a Jan. 2 fire that destroyed a 7,500-square-foot DNR building.

The building contained a warehouse, shop, six offices, a fire engine that was severely damaged and three vehicles that cannot be repaired.

An eight-person recovery team, including seven Olympic Region employees from outside of the Forks area, also was slated to arrive Monday to assist in recovery efforts.

An investigation into the cause of the 12:19 a.m. Jan. 2 blaze at 411 Tillicum Lane ended Friday, DNR spokesman Dave Cole said Monday.

Cole said did not know the result of the investigation.

West End Fire District No. 1 has jurisdiction over the investigation, DNR Director of Communications Bryan Flint said.

District No. 1 Chief Bill Paul did not return calls for comment Monday.

DNR Law Enforcement Chief Larry Raedel said the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigated the fire scene.

ATF Public Information Officer Cheryl Bishop confirmed that an ATF agent was at the fire scene Friday at the request of DNR and the Clallam County Sheriff's Office.

Bishop said the results of ATF investigations are turned over to local authorities, who can release the reports at their discretion.

Cole said he took it as a good sign that DNR is being allowed to remove any salvageable items from the warehouse, shop and offices.

That could indicate that authorities believe arson was not involved and do not consider the site a potential crime scene that should be protected from disturbance, Cole said.

There were no injuries reported in the blaze.

The blaze consumed the 7,500-square-foot building at the agency's 20-acre complex east of U.S. Highway 101, one of the largest DNR regional offices in the state.

There are 70 people employed at the DNR complex, which now has eight buildings on the acreage.

It includes a community meeting room building that was not damaged.

DNR staff stationed in Forks cover an area that includes Clallam and Jefferson counties and stretches from Aberdeen in Grays Harbor County to near the Mason County line.

The building and its contents are insured for $2.4 million.

An insurance company investigator was slated to arrive this week, possibly Monday, Cole said.

A $100,000 fire engine was seriously damaged, and three pickup trucks valued at about $75,000 destroyed, Cole said.

The fire engine, which was still in the charred building Monday, may no longer be usable.

“From what I can see, the top half of it is pretty well burnt,” Cole said, adding that some red paint is still visible on the vehicle.

A replacement DNR fire engine has been brought on site and it ready for use, he added.

“It's the same kind of wildland firefighting truck,” Cole said.

Employees who worked at the warehouse building have been moved to other offices on the DNR complex, he added.

The destroyed structure was built in 1958.

The fire was the fourth major blaze in the Forks area since Oct. 29, when the historic former Odd Fellows hall and the adjacent former Dazzled by Twilight souvenir store were destroyed.

Three weeks later, on Dec. 19, fire struck the manufactured home of Mike Walter Schulze, 54, of 853 Palmer Road, about a mile east of Forks.

The body of the self-employed mechanic was found near the bedroom.

Early Dec. 19, a fire consumed an unoccupied mobile home on Richwine Road four miles west of 3 Rivers Resort.

Authorities said none of the three fires that preceded the Jan. 2 blaze was suspicious.



Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at paul.gottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: January 07. 2013 6:12PM
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