Blaze is deemed as accidental

Chris and Lois Smith comfort each other in front of their ruined Langley home. - Spencer Webster / The Record
Chris and Lois Smith comfort each other in front of their ruined Langley home.
— image credit: Spencer Webster / The Record

LANGLEY — A Langley house went up in flames around noon Wednesday while the owners weren’t home and was destroyed by the fire and the smoke it created.

“When our first arriving units got there, there were flames coming through the roof already,” said Paul Busch, Fire District 3’s deputy chief.

“The house was basically a total loss.” Bush said, adding that it was under investigation by the Island County fire marshal.

Chris Smith was in Freeland when his brother called him and told him his home — a rambler-style house on Herring Street — was on fire. His wife Lois was in Oak Harbor.

“Chris’ brother called and said ‘Lois, your house is burning down,’” Lois Smith recalled.

“I told him that was not very funny. He told me again that it was burning. I left my granddaughter with my son ... and I came home,” she said.

When she arrived, five fire trucks were on the street. A power cable melted and dropped close to one of the firefighters, stalling efforts to battle the blaze.

“They had to stop fighting the fire for a little while because the power line actually dropped and almost hit one of the firemen,” Smith said. “If anyone would have gotten hurt trying to save this place, it would have killed us both.”

Her husband had reason to race home to talk with the firefighters because he knew he had flammable items within the home.

“I tried to get back here as fast as possible. I had a couple of radio controlled cars and

I had a gallon and a half of fuel,” he said.

“I told those guys immediately and I guess one of the cans had ballooned out and got on one of the firefighter’s arms. It gave him a slight burn.”

“I definitely would not have been able to live with myself if I had known one of the those guys had gotten hurt,” he added.

The Smiths were in the process of renovating the house when it was destroyed, they said.

“I had just finished my granddaughter’s bedroom in pink and butterflies. She’d come here on weekends,” Lois Smith said.

“I was working on the last room and couldn’t get my ripsaw to work, so I went to Freeland to borrow a friend’s saw,” her husband added. “I was pretty sure I unplugged everything before I left.”

“I was sure that was the cause of it.

I thought I just ruined my house. They are saying they don’t think that was the cause of it.”

Firefighters found the cord unplugged from the wall, though.

The cause of the blaze, though undetermined, was something else.

“It was strictly accidental,” Busch said.

Investigators did remove a motor from a recently purchased adjustable bed and a lamp Smith had used to light up the bedroom, Smith said.

For now, the Smiths are waiting for their insurance agent to arrive so they can determine what their next step will be.

A firefighter recommended that they just bulldoze the home and start over.

But Lois Smith is not sure the house that has been in her husband’s family for almost

50 years — and one they have owned since 1991 — could be replaced and still be their home.

Her husband agreed.

“This house has been in my family since 1960. This has always been a family residence,” he said.

“It really depends on the insurance company whether we rebuild or not. If it’s going to take too much, we might just leave,” Smith said.

In addition to the loss of their home, Smith said he lost his 10-year collection of mammoth bones and his resale business inventory.

“That was one of the best hobbies I ever had. All of my resale business inventory is gone,” he said.

His wife lost her medication, as well as things that cannot be replaced, such as photos and other family memorabilia.

“If people have things that are precious, I mean furniture can be replaced, people can’t, but if you have special things, get those kinds of safes that are fireproof or keep stuff in a safe deposit box,” she recommended. “You can’t replace those kinds of things.”

She also took the time to recognize the firefighters for their quick response.

“We have a fast-moving volunteer fire department that was here within eight minutes from the initial phone call; that’s pretty quick to leave your job and do a job that you don’t have to do.”

A friend, LoriJo Thorp, had opened her home to the couple.

Thorp is accepting donations on behalf of the Smiths and can be reached at 221-2849.

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