By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News
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Owners and employees from the Holiday Lodge — the former Chinook Motel — plus an unidentified Coast Guard petty officer, a marine engine mechanic and a fellow traveler all stopped what they were doing Monday morning when a flaming trailer drove by on East First Street.
All pitched in with fire extinguishers to control the blaze until firefighters arrived.
The fire began in a 2013 Tracer Ultralite travel trailer being towed by Dan Knutson, 64, of Sequim, who was returning home after a camping trip at Salt Creek Recreation Area.
“It was only our third trip with the trailer,” Knutson said.
Unknown to Knutson, his trailer had caught fire as he drove through Port Angeles on U.S. Highway 101.
“You could see flames shooting up 10 feet in the air,” said Gurpreet Singh, who saw the trailer from Holiday Lodge at 1414 E. First St., which he and his father are renovating.
Gurpreet Singh, his father, Balbir Singh, and an employee, Josh Spry, waved down Knutson as they chased him down the street.
Knutson stopped in front of Cafe Garden restaurant, 1506 E. First St., where six Good Samaritans converged on the scene with hand-held fire extinguishers taken from their businesses and vehicles.
The Singhs and Spry each grabbed a fire extinguisher from the motel, while mechanic Chuck Gates of Olympic Marine, located across the street from Holiday Lodge, also arrived with an extinguisher.
Motorists Jared Herr of Port Angeles and an unidentified coast guardsman also stopped their vehicles to help put out the fire.
Calls to the Coast Guard Air Station/Sector Field Office Port Angeles to identify the petty officer, who drove off after the fire was under control, were unsuccessful.
Spry climbed on top of the trailer as the coast guardsman and Gates handed up additional extinguishers in bucket-brigade style.
The Singhs helped detach two propane tanks from the trailer and moved them a safe distance away, while Knutson unhitched his pickup truck from the trailer and moved it.
Port Angeles Fire Capt. Duke Moroz said the crew of do-gooders did exactly the right thing by attacking the fire from the roof and using dry extinguishers on the flames.
“It was absolutely a good thing,” Moroz said.
The group of strangers kept the fire under control until a Port Angeles Fire Department truck arrived to spray foam inside the trailer.
Moroz said he thought the fire might have been triggered by a pilot light on the trailer's refrigerator.
The fire burned the kitchen and living area of the trailer, through the air conditioning and heating unit on the roof and through vents on the sides of the trailer.
It was expected that the trailer will be a total loss.
“We haven't paid it off yet,” Knutson said.
He said that when insurance comes through, he and his wife will probably buy a recreational vehicle instead.
Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.