No one was seriously injured in the structure fire that destroyed a South Whidbey home on Monday.
South Whidbey Fire/EMS responded to the fire at a home and shop on Woodbine Road in Freeland at 2:50 p.m. July 26 and stayed until 10 p.m.
The home was built by a Whidbey family two decades ago. The builders’ daughter, Sam Mutschler, was living there with her boyfriend, Victor Reeves, at the time of the fire.
All of the occupants, including dogs in the house and donkeys on the property, escaped the blaze safely. One occupant received minor burns.
The house and the shop on the property were both destroyed. The Island County Assessor’s Office pegs the assessed value of the buildings on the property at $400,000, although the market value may have been much more in the current real estate environment.
South Whidbey Fire/EMS reported the fire began in the shop and spread to the home. The cause is still under investigation.
The Freeland home posed an unusual challenge to the firefighters. South Whidbey Fire/EMS public information officer Jon Gabelein said the house was made from solid logs, which are a much denser fuel for fires than normal construction materials like two-by-fours and drywall.
Dense fuels like logs give off more heat and smolder for a longer time, requiring more water to extinguish completely.
Other South Whidbey residents reported hearing a loud boom the afternoon of the fire. This came from a 100-pound propane tank exploding from the heat.
Gabelein said propane tanks come with release valves that allow over-heated tanks to automatically relieve pressure.
One of the tanks inside the house functioned properly and held up during the fire; one failed and exploded. Gabelein said this is extremely uncommon.
A 500-pound propane tank on the lawn also vented properly, and when exposed to the heat of the fire, the venting propane created a column of flame at the site.
Sparks from the fire blew far offsite into the surrounding forest, igniting small brush fires in the dry grass. South Whidbey Fire/EMS called in backup from Central Whidbey Fire and Rescue to put out these brush fires.
Officers from the Island County Sheriff’s Office also came to help direct traffic and keep crowds back from the fire.
In total, 22 first responders from South Whidbey Fire/EMS, five from Central Whidbey Fire and Rescue, two from the Island County Sheriff’s Office and two from Whidbey Health EMS assisted at the scene.
Spot fires were still turning up from sparks off the structure fire as recently as Wednesday, when South Whidbey Fire/EMS responded to a 10-foot by 10-foot ground fire in the wooded area behind the home.