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Flames destroy garage, apartment near Mutiny Bay

Walt Condon arrives home to find his garage and daughter
Walt Condon arrives home to find his garage and daughter's apartment totally destroyed, but firefighters saved his home.
— image credit: Jim Larsen / Record editor

A raging fire destroyed a two-story garage with an apartment on the top floor near Mutiny Bay early Wednesday afternoon.

South Whidbey Fire/EMS responded to a call that came in about 1:30 p.m. to find the garage entirely engulfed in flames, said Chief Rusty Palmer as he watched firefighters pour water on the black, smokey remnants of the building. The building was near the intersection of Mutiny Bay and Bush Point roads.

The apartment resident, Deborah Congdon, was taking a nap next door in her parents' house. "I'm fine, they saved me," she said, sitting in a neighbor's vehicle as her apartment smoldered.

Nancy Manjikian, a nurse at Whidbey General Hospital, saw the flames as she was coming home with her parents, George and Miriam Clark. "It was fully engulfed," Nancy said. She ran across the field to the house in which Congdon was sleeping, perhaps 50-feet from the burning garage.

She started yelling at anyone inside the house and Congdon finally heard her. "Nancy woke me up," she said, still shaken. "I heard 'get up'!' I was just unaware. Nancy saved me."

"The flames were threatening the house and the propane tank," Nancy said. "I yelled and yelled and yelled."

Walt Congdon, his wife and other daughter were out eating lunch at Blueberry Hill in Freeland when the fire started.

"We were in the restaurant and saw the black smoke but couldn't pin it down to one place," he said. Ten minutes later he got the call and hurried for home.

He arrived to see firefighters had saved his house and were still pouring water onto the garage, which he refers to as "the barn." Chief Palmer said the building had an open floor plan and was used as a two-car garage, with the apartment, also with an open floor plan, above.

Deborah Congdon made her exit hurriedly with Nancy Manjikian when flames were licking at the house. "Flames were coming out of every window," Nancy said. Her dad, Ed Clark, was watching from his vehicle and could see the flames and heard the sound. "They were popping and exploding," he said.

Another neighbor, Joanne Schimpf, also hurried to help. "There were flames flying," she said. "I heard two explosions."

Chief Palmer said one explosion may have been the gas tank of a late '90s Mazda pickup parked in front of the building, and the other may have been a gas can inside the garage.

In the end, only the building was lost and Deborah Congdon, two dogs and other animals were fine.

Congdon could even find a little black humor in the situation. "I didn't want to clean it and now I don't have to," she said of her apartment.

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