An abandoned home in Freeland was destroyed Wednesday by a fire that officials have deemed “suspicious.”
The blaze was reported shortly after 8 p.m. by a police officer. He was in the area at the time and saw a column of smoke, according to Jon Beck, deputy chief of South Whidbey Fire/EMS. The Island County Sheriff’s Office deputy investigated and found the home on fire; he reportedly attempted to extinguish some of the flames with a fire extinguisher but made little headway.
“It was well involved when we got there,” Beck said.
Neighbors Mark Tucker and Amiee Brookhart live in the home next door. As firefighters worked to put out the main blaze, they were busy soaking their fence and lawn with garden hoses.
Both were nervous the fire would get out of control and ignite their house as well.
“Yeah, it was scary,” said Brookhart, when asked by a Record reporter.
The single story structure had been been vacant for years and was overgrown with blackberry bushes and shrubs. Its exterior was also covered in cedar shingles. Tucker described it as a “tinder box.”
“It’s like the worst case scenario,” he said.
Tucker was home when he noticed the smoke. He walked over and met the arriving police officer. He said flames were inside the building and under the porch.
Having long been abandoned, the home’s windows and entrances were boarded up. Beck, however, said the officer reported finding some of them torn down when he arrived. Power to the building had long since been turned off.
“It’s suspicious in nature, and we’ve turned the investigation over to the Island County Sheriff’s Office,” Beck said.
About half a dozen fire engines responded to the fire and just as many support vehicles. Honeymoon Bay Road was also closed in both directions. All the commotion attracted the attention of lots of neighbors, including Bob and Helen Welch. They’ve lived across the street for more than a decade and have never known the home to be occupied by “squatters.”
Other neighbors said the house was one of two Whidbey homes that were featured in the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair and then later transported to the island. Beck said he couldn’t confirm that was the case but said the house certainly didn’t fit with the rest of area’s homes.
“I think it’s been there for a long time; it doesn’t fit architecturally with anything else that’s there,” Beck said. “I think it was there before the golf course.”
The Island County Assessor’s Office’s website, which lists property details for all Island County homes, couldn’t confirm the building’s history, but it did say the structure’s assessed value in 2016 was about $21,000. Beck said the building was a total loss.