PORT ANGELES — Port Angeles City Council member Charlie McCaughan is looking for temporary housing after his home was badly damaged in a fire Sunday.
No people or pets were injured in the blaze on East Hawthorne Place, the city Fire Department said.
“Everyone’s alive,” McCaughan said Monday after checking into the Port Angeles Red Lion Hotel.
“Everything’s not replaceable, but things are repairable, and hopefully we can get back in there within a year.
“Our biggest concern is finding housing,” McCaughan added.
“It’s so hard to find anywhere to live.”
Firefighters arrived at about 8 p.m. Sunday to find 15- to 20-foot flames extending into the attic of the unoccupied house, fire Captain Cpt. Kelly Ziegler said.
“Crews made a quick attack on the fire from the exterior of the structure, followed by an interior attack and search of the occupancy when additional resources arrived,” Ziegler said in a press release.
Fire Lt. Mark Karjalainen, who was part of the second unit to arrive, said the initial crews did a “great job” of knocking down the fire and preventing further loss.
“The fact that the living portion of the house — pictures on the walls, all that kind of stuff — we were able to salvage and keep from being completed destroyed was much appreciated by the owners,” Karjalainen said in a telephone interview.
Two dogs were rescued by a neighbor, Ziegler said. A cat was found hiding under a towel in a back bedroom, Karjalainen said.
The initial attack was completed within the first 10 minutes of the crew’s arrival, Karjalainen said.
It took several hours to overhaul the structure to completely extinguish the fire.
“We had to overhaul to expose the structural members that were burning behind sheet rock in the attic space,” Karjalainen said Monday.
The cause of the fire remained under investigation.
Preliminary indications were that the fire began on a patio next to the house and spread to the walls and attic, Karjalainen said.
An insurance adjuster and fire investigators were expected to be on scene today.
The fire caused “significant” smoke and water damage, burned a shared fence and singed a section of a neighbor’s lawn, Karjalainen said.
The house is secured by existing doors and windows but is not habitable, Karjalainen said. Electricity has been shut off to the house.
McCaughan said he and his wife, Melanie, were watching a movie at Deer Park Cinema with their phones turned off when reports of the fire began spreading on Facebook.
He said his wife received a message from her son, who lives in Oregon, about the fire.
“He said, ‘I don’t want to scare you, but your house is on fire,’” McCaughan said.
“It’s just amazing, social media.”
McCaughan, who had 21 messages on his phone when he left the movie, raced home in about 10 minutes.
“We were concerned about our cat and the house,” he said.
“We knew the dogs were outside.”
The cat escaped in the aftermath of the fire and was still missing as of 4 p.m. Monday.
McCaughan said he had “no idea” how the fire began.
“I wish I knew, or else I would have prevented it from happening,” he said.
McCaughan said his family also lost a home in Mississippi during a hurricane in 1969.
“I really thought I’d never go through it again, but sometimes lightning strikes twice,” McCaughan said.
“In five minutes, your life changes.”
McCaughan praised the work of the Port Angeles Fire Department and the neighbors who saved his dogs.
“We have great neighbors,” McCaughan said.
“You think things are going so wrong in the world, but people step up when there’s a tragedy. That makes you feel good about the people in our community.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at [email protected].