PORT TOWNSEND — A couple escaped their burning Port Townsend-area home Thursday morning as a blaze ripped through the house.
Firefighters from East Jefferson Fire-Rescue, Port Ludlow Fire Department and Naval Magazine Indian Island Fire Station 91 fought the single-story structure fire at 160 Cub Road at about 9:24 a.m. Thursday.
Resident Van Roberts said he held his wife’s hand as he led her out of the fire before grabbing buckets of water to attempt to slow the fire.
“It all just happened really fast,” he said.
The fire started in the fireplace and chimney, he said. Smoke filled the home. Fire singed the hair on his head.
“Once it caught the living room rug on fire it was instant smoke,” he said as firefighters continued to spray water on the house he built 20 years ago.
He said his home was uninsured. Roberts said he’ll just have to start over because the blaze completely destroyed his house.
He and his wife have lived off-the-grid in their solar-powered home that he built himself, he said.
“I drove every nail into that house,” Roberts said.
He later told firefighters that he had attempted to start a fire in his wood-burning stove, located in a hollow inside a home-built chimney.
Unsuccessful, he went outside and returned with a mix of motor oil and diesel fuel, which he tossed into the stove.
The mixture immediately ignited and poured back out of the open stove, singeing the hair on his head and catching the flooring on fire, according to East Jefferson Fire-Rescue.
The home is about 5 miles south of Port Townsend in the Four Corners area. Smoke could be seen from state Highway 20 near Jefferson County International Airport.
“Firefighters arrived and knocked the fire down probably within about 15 or 20 minutes, but not before the house was destroyed,” said Bill Beezley, fire department spokesman.
Firefighters took a defensive approach when attacking the fire, meaning they were focused on protecting the surroundings.
Beezley said the home was “so far gone that it was no longer safe to put firefighters [inside] and risk their lives trying to put out the fire.”
The home was surrounded by trees and brush, but because of recent rain, Beezley said there was little risk of the fire spreading.
The fire was not hot enough to put a nearby propane tank at risk, he said. The metal roof on the home kept the fire contained to the inside of the building.
“There was no real risk of the fire spreading away from the structure,” he said.
He said the American Red Cross had been contacted to help the couple with shelter.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].