Port Angeles apartment catches fire in 23-unit complex

Ashes for smudge art blamed

PORT ANGELES — An unoccupied second-floor apartment at 805 E. Fifth St. caught fire Thursday morning, causing an estimated $10,000 in damage to the fully rented building and the apartment occupants’ personal property, a Port Angeles Fire Department official said.

Capt. Bryant Kroh said Thursday afternoon that drapes in the 23-unit Panorama Manor at the corner of East Fifth and South Francis streets apparently caught fire from ashes that were kept in a shell ashtray that a woman who lives in the apartment uses for her art, called smudging.

“Flames were at one point up to the ceiling,” Kroh said.

No injuries were reported.

A cat that was in the apartment was returned unharmed to its owner.

The woman has long deposited burned matches into a sand-filled ashtray to engage in a form of art called smudging, Kroh said.

“Somehow, some of it spilled out,” he said.

“Unfortunately, they did not have rental insurance,” Kroh said.

“The cat is definitely safe and healthy,” he added.

The woman and a male occupant were not there at the time the fire broke out.

It was reported shortly before 9 a.m. by passersby and by painters who were working on the building. Apartment smoke detectors also were going off, Kroh said.

The painters started putting out the flames with garden hose from the ground, helping to keep the fire at bay until fire department units arrived and knocked down the blaze with a single fire hose, Kroh said.

Personnel used a ground ladder to reach the second floor, where light smoke was issuing from the balcony when they arrived, Kroh said.

Five on-duty personnel, a chief officer, medic unit and an engine responded. Community paramedics also responded. After the fire was reported, family members who live at the complex called the woman, and she was able to return directly from work, Kroh said.

The American Red Cross was contacted to assist the tenants.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at pgottlieb@ peninsuladailynews.com.

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