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Nighttime blaze claims Goss Lake barn
A fire destroyed a two-story, 3,300-square-foot barn near Goss Lake early Tuesday morning.
Neither of the property owners were injured, but the blaze engulfed the entire barn and the structure was a total loss, according to South Whidbey Fire/EMS officials. The cause was unknown, and because of the way firefighters battled the flames, it may never be discovered.
“It was a totally defensive fire. Unfortunately we had to dissect the building with a trackhoe, so we weren’t able to determine the cause,” said Chief Rusty Palmer. “But nothing indicated a suspicious origin.”
Palmer estimated the value of the loss, including the structure and what was stored inside, at nearly $500,000.
At about 1:15 a.m., owners Ron Swenson and his wife awoke to the sound of the barn burning.
“It must have just been the noise of it,” Swenson said. “It was well in flames when we first got there. It woke my wife up.”
He was able to get his truck out of the barn, but that was it. Swenson, a general contractor, had to leave all of his tools — pressure washers, generators, power tools — along with an all-terrain vehicle, an excavator tractor and an antique car in the barn to be destroyed.
“I had 35 years worth of tools and equipment as a general contractor in there,” he said.
“I’m gonna miss all of my equipment, that’s for sure,” he added.
When first responders arrived, the Swensons were dousing the side and roof of their home with a garden hose to keep it from getting too hot.
“The heat, it was hot,” Swenson said. “You couldn’t get close to it.”
“The flames were getting to be 40, 50 feet high,” he added.
Palmer said their quick thinking to keep their house cold and wet may have saved their home from serious burn damage, even as they watched so much go up in flames just 60 feet away.
“There was no way we were going to save the barn, so all of our effort would have been to save the house,” Palmer said. “Them doing that, it really helped.”
South Whidbey Fire/EMS used a trackhoe to cave-in the barn to help extinguish the blaze. Palmer said the roof and second story had already collapsed when the district’s five water tenders and four engines — crewed by 25 volunteers — showed up to 4724 Thornwood Lane. Once the side walls started to give way, the district made the call to smash it down.
“We had six or seven feet of debris on the floor,” said Palmer, adding that it made going in on foot impossible for the firefighters. “By using the track hoe, we separate all of the things that are burning and get water into it.”
In doing so, however, the district makes it far more difficult to determine the cause or origin of the flame. Judging from some of the debris that appeared to be further burned, Palmer said the fire likely started in the middle of the barn.
“Unfortunately, they lost a lot,” Palmer said.