Fire destroys Langley home, people, animals escape

This was the scene moments after the first firefighters arrived to fight a house fire on Anthes Avenue in Langley late Friday afternoon. The house appeared to be a total loss by 7 p.m. but a woman and her two grandchildren got out unharmed.

A home was destroyed by fire in Langley late Friday afternoon but two adults, two children, four dogs and several cats escaped the inferno unharmed.

South Whidbey Fire/EMS threw everything it had at the stubborn blaze, but even after 20 minutes of battle flames were still licking above the roof of the house, located at 460 Anthes Avenue, about block up the hill from the United Methodist Church.

Homeowner Maralie Johnson stood on the edge of the street with her grandchildren by he side as she watched everything she owns go up in a haze of smoke and flames. “We don’t know,” she said, when asked how the fire started. “It started in the garage and my grandson said ‘the house is on fire!’”

Her grandson, Ryan Russell, 14, said he smelled smoke and told everyone to leave. He dialed 911 on the phone. The call came in about 6:30 p.m. said firefighter Jon Gabelein, who was taking a break at about 7 p.m.

Emmalee Russell, 8, ran outside with her grandmother and brother. A downstairs tenant, Vicki Lanning, said she was outside weeding the garden. She was too shaken up to talk much about it.

Johnson said there were a number of cats in the house and she was not certain they were all accounted for. “I hope they’re all out,” she said.

Johnson appeared to take in the scene rather calmly. “I believe God will take care of me but I tell you I’m upset,” she said. Already two people had offered the family a place to spend the night.

Anthes Avenue was lined with at least four fire engines, a couple of tankers, rescue vans, and ambulance and miscellaneous equipment. A woman firefighter on top of a fire truck trained a high arc of water from a water cannon on the house as others hosed it down from the ground. Ladders were brought in to gain entry to the upper level.

Reserve Langley Police Officer Leif Erickson, who is an Island County Sheriff’s deputy in his full-time job, was the first emergency responder to arrive. He said the occupants were already outside but he helped get some animals out. “The smoke was coming out of the garage,” he said. The roof of the garage soon caved in as the rest of the house was smoldering.

Townsfolk lined the avenue by the dozen, chatting, hugging and taking pictures. Marci Wiley, a Langley resident, said she had just come home from the mainland when saw “a huge black cloud,” hovering. She couldn’t resist stopping to see what was going on.

By 7:30 p.m. firefighters were still dealing with billowing steam and smoke. There was no doubt they had a long night ahead of them.