Iconic Central Whidbey barn burns to ground

Fire took down an iconic Central Whidbey barn Monday night, turning the historic structure into charred rubble.

Firefighters with Central Whidbey Fire & Rescue responded to a report of a house and barn fire shortly after 8 p.m. and arrived to find the Smith Barn on Ebey Road in Coupeville fully engulfed in flames.

Within 20 minutes, the entire structure had collapsed. The nearby farmhouse was not damaged.

The Smith Barn was an integral part of Georgie Smith’s Willowood Farm. It has been in the Smith family for more than a century and was one of Ebey Prairie’s most recognizable and photographed landmarks.

Charles Arndt, Smith’s husband, dislocated his shoulder while running from his home but everyone else in the family escaped harm.

Smith, a fourth-generation farmer, was attending a meeting with other farmers Monday night at the Pacific Rim Institute of Environmental Stewardship on Parker Road when she learned of the fire and rushed home.

“She said, ‘My barn’s on fire.’ She jumped up and ran out,” said Robert Pelant, chief executive officer of the Pacific Rim Institute. “We just were all sick.”

The fire’s orange glow could be seen from miles away. One firefighter with North Whidbey Fire and Rescue, which also responded, said they could see the glow from San de Fuca as they rushed along Highway 20.

To get water on the blaze, four fire tenders were used to bring water from Coupeville High School to the site since a fire hydrant was more than a mile away from the farm.

From Ebey Road, the water had to be pumped along a dirt driveway to an engine near the barn.

“It presented some challenges because it’s 1,000 feet from the road,” said Fire Chief Ed Hartin of Central Whidbey Fire & Rescue. “Being familiar with the location, I called in an additional engine from North Whidbey and an additional tender from North Whidbey.”

The fire burned so hot that a fence post 50 feet away was still burning an hour after the fire had started.

Hartin said the cause of the fire is unknown. Firefighters will remain onsite until daylight.

Smith said through social media that everyone was OK aside from her husband’s shoulder injury but she lost almost all of her farm equipment in the fire. Her parents’ nearby farmhouse was fine, she added.

Smith and her family live on the property farther away from the barn.

Smith has said in the past that she believed the barn was built in the 1880s.

A new metal roof was installed on it in late 2012 made possible by grant money received from the Ebey’s Forever Fund.

A GoFundMe account was already created Monday night in an effort to help the Smith family recover and rebuild the barn. It can be found at https://www.gofundme.com/never-finished-farming-smith-barn

A firefighter battles a blaze that knocked out a Central Whidbey icon Monday night, March 6, 2017. The fire destroyed the historic Smith Barn at Willowood Farm in Coupeville. Photo by Megan Hansen/Whidbey News-Times

When Central Whidbey Fire & Rescue arrived on the scene, the barn was full involved in flames Monday, March 6, 2017. Photo provided by Central Whidbey Fire & Rescue

Firefighters attack the flames that engulfed the Smith Barn Monday night, March 6, 2017. Photo by Ron Newberry/Whidbey News-Times

Firefighters fill a basin with water so it can be pumped to the engine near the burning Smith Barn. Photo by Ron Newberry/Whidbey News-Times

The orange glow caused from the Smith Barn fire on Ebey’s Prairie Monday night, March 6, 2017. Photo by Ron Newberry/Whidbey News-Times

An early morning view of Willowood Farm and the Smith Barn, right, on Feb. 22, 2017. Photo by Ron Newberry/Whidbey News-Times

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