PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles Fire Department was investigating Thursday the cause of a fire Wednesday night that destroyed a house, killed several pets and left a couple without a home.
“It was rolling, heavy fire conditions out the front door and the front two windows,” Capt. Jamie Mason said. “We started a defensive attack from the outside, transitioned inside and did a primary and secondary search where we found several deceased animals but no humans.”
He said no people were injured during the 9:30 p.m. fire at 409 S. Valley St.
The couple owned four dogs and five cats, said Fire Marshal Michael Sanders. Firefighters found the bodies of all of the dogs and one cat, he said.
Mason said when the fire was reported, two of the five firefighters on shift were already on another call.
Only three firefighters were able to respond initially, making battling the blaze tougher, he said.
“There were three of us and that made it really challenging just to get water on the fire,” he said, adding that once they got inside it was still difficult to maneuver.
“It took quite awhile to knock it down. Just getting access to the correct angles to get water on the fire was a challenge.”
The home is owned by Harold Bushman and Karla Ferrier, according to county records. Bushman said Wednesday night he didn’t want to talk about the fire.
Due to low staffing, firefighters were initially unable to go into the house and were forced to fight defensively from outside, he said.
Mason said it didn’t take long before a volunteer, two engines from Clallam County Fire District No. 2 and more firefighters from Port Angeles Fire Department arrived. In all there were about 20 firefighters at the scene.
Sanders said it was too early to know the cause of the fire, but he is positive the fire started in the living room.
“Most house fires are electrical in origin, or they are using space heaters too close to combustibles or possibly a wood stove,” Sanders said. “It could be any one of those three things, but I couldn’t tell you for sure which one it was.”
Sanders said the wood stove — which was recently cleaned — was the only source of heat in the home and that the residents were using a space heater in the living room.
Sanders said there is nothing to indicate the fire was suspicious and that although he didn’t anticipate knowing the cause Thursday, he believes investigators will be able to figure out how the fire started.
“There’s a high likelihood,” he said. “When they start going through all the furnishings and the items in the living room … and they can definitely point down an area, I think they have a good chance of determining at least a reasonable cause.”
He said a woman who was home at the time was in the kitchen. She smelled smoke and saw flames in the living room before escaping out the front door.
She called 9-1-1 and her boyfriend, Sanders said.
Sanders said the couple stayed with a friend Wednesday night and that their insurance company planned to send an independent investigator.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].