Science educational materials used by generations of students were destroyed Wednesday when the Langley classroom laboratory of Leonard Good partially burned in a fire.
Facing challenging conditions, firefighters from South Whidbey and Naval Air Station Whidbey Island spent several hours suppressing the fire that broke out in a small workshop located behind Good’s residence on Nancye Lane.
No injuries were reported.
“Crews did a great job containing and putting out the fire,” said South Whidbey Fire/EMS Deputy Chief Wendy Moffatt. “We were able to save part of the structure.”
Good, 80, is a longtime science educator known for his innovative classes and summer rocket-building mini-camps that he launched some four decades ago.
He still leads a science program at South Whidbey Schools through grant funding. Years ago, he also turned his home workshop/laboratory into a classroom to teach young kids about the wonders of physics, chemistry and astronomy.
“At about 11:15 a.m. Wednesday morning, I saw smoke coming from where Leonard had just taught a student from 10 to 11 a.m.,” said Leonard’s wife, Linda Good. “They had both just left.”
When Leonard returned from errands, his far-flung property teemed with fire engines, a tanker truck and other rescue vehicles. The residence is located one-half mile up a hill at the end of Nancye Lane that borders the Holmes Harbor Rod & Gun Club.
“Flames were coming out of the roof,” Leonard Good said. “That was very unnerving.”
Firefighters were hampered by inaccessibility and lack of water. They set up a portable pool and filled it with water from the tanker.
Much of the damage occurred in the roof and in the small storage attic, Good said, but firefighters kept the fire from penetrating the walls.
A crew from NAS Whidbey was summoned in case there were hazardous chemicals involved.
Good said he takes precautions when storing any chemicals and no explosions occurred. However, many science supplies stored in plastic containers melted in the heat. Workshop counter tops had been filled with glass beakers and other fragile equipment used for science experiments — now mostly shattered.
Perhaps most heartbreaking for the perennial man of science and flight is losing his longtime model airplane collection. The planes hung around his workshop, providing swings of color among the chrome and glass.
“I loved those model planes,” said Good. “I had a big bi-plane with an 8-foot wing span. It burned completely. All of it, disappeared.”
Good’s collection of model airplane magazines from the early 1940s also took a soaking. He’s now spreading them around the house to dry.
“It was just full of neat junk,” he said of the 30-feet-by 15-feet workshop his brother in law built some 30 years ago.
“It was an electrical fire, some sort of fault in the wiring. A brand new socket had been put it about one month ago. … But I just had a class in there in the morning, Nothing was amiss, I didn’t smell anything.”
Fire Chief Rusty Palmer confirmed Friday that “all indications are it was an electrical fire.”
Leonard’s mobile classroom, his classic 1963 two-toned VW micro bus, escaped damage. Also spared was his 1954 Zundapp German motorcycle that took Leonard and his soon-to-be wife to Whidbey for the first time on a quick escape from Seattle many, many years ago.
The Goods are grateful that the 8-year-old student had left before the fire broke out and that South Whidbey Fire/EMS crews saved the structure from complete ruin.
“Then the firefighters thanked us for having a turnaround,” Linda Good said, “or they never could have gotten out of here.”
Leonard said he’s had many offers of help from friends but he’s still figuring out how to tackle the mess and memories.
“I don’t know what to tell them,” he said. “I guess we’ll just have to pull up a pickup truck and start pitching.”