Nighttime blaze claims Clinton barn; investigation underway

South Whidbey Fire/EMS firefighters rally at a barn fire in Clinton Monday night. The structure and all its contents were destroyed.

An old barn in Clinton was destroyed by fire Monday evening.

The blaze occurred on an old homesite on the south side of Highway 525 just west of the traffic light at Ken’s Korner. South Whidbey Fire/EMS Chief Rusty Palmer said two firefighters suffered minor injuries — a hurt wrist and smoke inhalation — in the incident, and that the structure and all its contents were a total loss.

As of press time Tuesday, the cause remained unknown and the case is under investigation.

The fire was reported at 10:17 p.m. by multiple motorists. Palmer said the ferry had just unloaded, and though the site was largely hidden by trees the flames were clearly visible from the roadway.

“It was a pretty big fire,” Palmer said.

Steve McDougall, the sole resident of the property, seconded that assessment. He rents a home about 100 yards from the old barn and was awoken by a police officer banging on his door. Groggy from sleep and still in nothing but his skivvies, McDougall looked out to see the massive blaze.

“That fire was huge,” he said. “I looked out the slider and everything was engulfed. It was all on fire.”

The property is owned by Verlane Gabelein.


Palmer said it’s unclear how long the fire was burning, but confirmed that the flames had done their work by the time firefighters arrived. Crews focused largely on mop-up.

“The building had already collapsed by the time we arrived on scene, so we basically put out the debris that was left,” Palmer said.

Firefighters were initially concerned about the presence of several propane tanks — early reports suggested there might be as many as 20 on site, but that proved false. Palmer said about four were found in total, most of which were small portable tanks.

The barn itself was estimated to be about 1,200 square feet, and housed an old dump truck and other miscellaneous items.

“Just a lot of stuff; there was a metal wheel in there about the size of my truck,” he said.

An old travel trailer was also parked alongside the structure. It was destroyed as well.

McDougall said he had no idea how the fire started. The barn didn’t have electricity and he isn’t aware of anyone being inside for some time.

Palmer said district officials didn’t find any evidence that would suggest recent human activity either but he declined to speculate further, saying the case was still being investigated.