PORT ANGELES — Neighbors heard explosions as a blaze ripped through an unoccupied mobile home on the 200 block of Kacee Way on Wednesday afternoon.
Neighbors Jeff Almont and his brother called 9-1-1 at about 3:15 p.m. when they noticed the fire. At first they thought their neighbor was burning something, but then they realized the single-wide mobile home on the back of the property was on fire.
“I heard a loud boom,” Almont said. “There were some explosions. It sounded like there were bullets.”
Almont said at one point the flames were shooting up to about 30 feet in the air and that they were climbing a nearby tree.
“The whole trailer, by the time it caught on fire, you could see the aluminum start to melt and then the trailer collapsed on itself,” he said.
Clallam Fire District 2 Chief Sam Phillips said the fire started when the property’s caretaker, Gerry Spurrier, was burning weeds near the trailer. The fire ignited plastic under the trailer.
Spurrier said he has been working to clean up the property since his brother died. He said the trailer that burned had been used for storage.
When he saw the fire spread, he and another man used garden hoses in an attempt to stop the flames.
Phillips said firefighters were dispatched to what had initially been described as a vehicle fire west of Port Angeles.
“That was quickly upgraded to a well-involved single-wide mobile home fire, so we dispatched a whole structural assignment,” Phillips said.
“We arrived with three engines, two water tenders, two command vehicles, an ambulance and 21 firefighters.”
He said it took about 30 minutes before firefighters were able to get the fire under control.
What made the attack difficult was the amount of debris on the property, limiting firefighters’ movements and making it difficult to move hoses.
The mobile home was used for storage. Multiple outbuildings and vehicles were on the property. That included a nearby mobile home.
“Despite that, they overcame that challenge and put the fire out without it spreading to the numerous exposures,” Phillips said.
“It was a big concern for us to get that fire under control before it spread to the other vehicles and and mobile homes near by.”
As firefighters overhauled the trailer they found at least one propane tank and prior to their arrival, Lower Elwha Klallam Police Officer Dylan Heck removed several propane tanks that were within 25 feet of the fire.
When propane tanks are heated, it can cause a boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion, potentially sending shrapnel up to half a mile away.
“Once I got on scene the structure on the back of the property was fully engulfed, there were flames burning through the side of the building and thick black smoke pouring out of the building,” said Heck, a former firefighter with Clallam County Fire District 2.
“The two gentleman were spraying water from a garden hose and I told them to get back to the road for safety.”
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].