AGNEW — A Friday night fire that left most of a 3,800-square-foot home uninhabitable was caused by creosote built up in the fireplace chimney, investigators said.
The structural and content loss was estimated at $500,000, said Patrick Young, fire safety inspector and public information officer for Clallam County Fire District No. 3 in Sequim.
No injuries were reported.
Young said the home, owned by Margie Martee and shared with husband Robert Watkins, was filled with smoke when Watkins returned home at 6:50 p.m. Friday with their dog at 84 Hunters Gate Lane off Finn Hall Road.
Martee was out of town when the fire was reported at 6:56 p.m. It was fought for about four hours then mopped up by 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Young said.
Watkins and their dog stayed with family and friends, Young reported.
“The majority of the house had high heat and smoke damage,” Young said, plus water damage caused when the fire was doused.
“Our firefighters braved some pretty bad conditions to get some of his [Watkins’] things that he believed to be valuable.”
Young said fires ignited by a creosote buildup in fireplace and wood-stove chimneys are greater than normal compared with “recent past years.”
“Four out of the last five were wood-stove or fireplace” chimney-related or caused by improper disposal of fireplace or wood-stove ashes, he said.
The Agnew fire was reported around the same time a much smaller Gardiner home exterior fire broke out, causing little damage but stretching District No. 3’s firefighters and resources.
Investigators believe that fire was caused by improperly disposed-of smoking material in trash and scorched only a small portion of the home’s exterior wall at 276784 U.S. Highway 101.
District No. 3’s Blyn fire station has jurisdiction over most of Gardiner under an agreement that was reached two years ago with Discovery Bay Jefferson County Fire District No. 5 in Gardiner.
At the Agnew fire scene, investigators said creosote was ignited and smoldered undetected inside the walls of the home, then at some point extended up into the attic space, where it continued to smolder until Friday night, investigators said.
Upon arrival, firefighters found the home “ablaze with heavy amounts of fire venting out of the roof.”
Two firefighters remained on scene overnight to extinguish hot spots as they flared up.
Because of the string of wood-stove and fireplace-related fires, Young said, “all persons using firewood or wood pellets to heat with should schedule, at a minimum, annual cleaning and inspections of the fire box and chimney by an experienced chimney sweep.”
Routine maintenance should include ash removal into a metal container mixed with water and stored away from the home and other combustible materials, Young said.
“Every home should have working smoke alarms, and each occupant should know and practice a fire escape plan,” he said.
________Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Jeff Chew can be reached at 360-681-2391 or at [email protected]