South Whidbey Fire/EMS had to use all of its firefighting resources Wednesday afternoon to fight a large structure fire on Lone Lake Road.
Nobody was injured in the blaze, but it was a hard hit to South Island Pumping, destroying a septic truck, garage and equipment.
South Whidbey firefighters and a few from Central Whidbey Island Fire and Rescue had to use extreme caution while attempting to put out the flames due to the presence of explosive materials near the garage. The property owner stored large amounts of ammunition and gunpowder in a reloading room within close proximity to the garage, according to fire officials.
“Everyone was out of the structure when it started,” Deputy Chief Wendy Moffatt said. “There were large amounts of saline tanks, oxygen tanks, propane tanks, ammunition and gun powder.”
A Record reporter, law enforcement officers and bystanders were told to stay roughly 100 feet away from the blaze as a precautionary measure; the tanks in the garage “started going off,” according to Moffatt. The room full of ammunition never caught fire, however.
The district initially responded to a call about a vehicle on fire at 3:15 p.m., but when first responders arrived they found the garage fully engulfed in flames. Smoke could be seen from Highway 525 about two miles south of the fire, which was near Wild Rose Way.
The septic truck was being refilled when it caught fire, and half of the truck was in the garage. The flames quickly spread to the structure.
“They were reloading the poop tank when they realized there was a fire coming from underneath the hood,” Chief Rusty Palmer said. “They ran to grab a fire extinguisher, but by the time they came back, the garage was fully involved.”
Firefighters worked for roughly six hours, until 9:30 p.m., to put out the flames. The property owner’s residence was nearby on the same lot, but the district helped prevent further damage. He declined to speak to the press.
“The owner’s residence is near the garage and the loading room, but there was no damage to their home,” Palmer said. “Our team did a great job.”
A nearby contracting company, J&D Wallace General Contractors, lent district officials a helping hand by offering an excavator to remove the garage’s caved roof, which was getting in the way of firefighters’ ability to stop the fire.
Moffatt said manpower was a slight issue since South Whidbey Fire/EMS is a volunteer force, which is why Central Whidbey Island Fire and Rescue was called in for assistance. Despite the obstacles, responders were able to douse the fire and prevent further damage or a potential explosion.