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Central Whidbey barn burner

A piece of Central Whidbey Island history was destroyed this week.

A blaze consumed a 71-year-old barn on Hill Road near the intersection of Engle Road. It was owned by Bob and Cheryl Engle.

When Central Whidbey Fire and Rescue firefighters arrived on scene, they found the large, green, former squash barn ablaze with flames shooting through the roof. It took approximately three hours to bring the fire under control.

“It was fairly stubborn,” said Joe Biller, chief of Central Whidbey Fire and Rescue. The fire was tough to extinguish because the barn walls were filled with sawdust used for insulation and small winds helped keep the flames fanned.

“It took a lot of water and a lot of energy to put it out,” Biller said.

Firefighters stayed on scene throughout the day dousing hot spots while workers sifted through the charred remnants of the barn.

Even though it was currently used as storage, the barn, which has been in the family for the better part of a century, had a lot of sentimental value for Engle.

“I took it kind of decent last night. This morning it kind of sunk in,” Engle said as an excavator and workers were sifting through the rubble of the barn built in 1936 by his wife’s dad.

Originally a place to store squash, the barn had eight-inch thick walls and has been used over the years to store hay, straw and grain.

The Engle family currently stored farm and truck equipment in half of the old barn. The family brought in an excavator Thursday to yank scrap metal and engine parts from the debris.

The Engle family wasn’t the only one to lose equipment in the fire.

Seattle resident Bob Abendroth rented out the other half of the barn. He stored vintage racing boats and hydroplanes in the barn. Unfortunately, all of those were destroyed in the blaze.

He drove up from Seattle Thursday and spent the day pulling out boats parts that could be salvaged.

The barn, which was next to Hill Road in the heart of Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve, was a vibrant reminder of the area’s rural character.

“It’s part of the landscape,” Engle said.

Although he didn’t know the history of the barn, Mark Preiss, manager of Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve, said the building provided a tangible characteristic of Whidbey Island’s rural heritage.

“It’s a reflection of the rural character of this community, so it’s a significant loss,” Preiss said Friday morning. He spent Thursday fielding calls from citizens concerned about the barn’s destruction.

The Island County Sheriff’s Office is continuing to investigate the fire. As of Friday, they hadn’t found where it started or what caused the blaze, said Det. Ed Wallace.

In addition to firefighters from Central Whidbey, firefighters from North Whidbey Fire and Rescue and the Naval Air Station helped. In all, 26 firefighters responded Thursday morning.

Five tenders, from the three different departments, were needed to supply firefighters with the water needed to extinguish the fire. Those tenders shuttled between the barn and a fire hydrant in Coupeville, Biller said.

He said the first firefighters were on scene within three to five minutes of receiving the call. Nobody was injured from the blaze.

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