A hot weekend in Oak Harbor
By JESSIE STENSLAND
Whidbey News Times Assistant editor
July 22, 2008 · Updated 5:47 PM
Last weekend was busy for the Oak Harbor Fire Department, with three fires to fight over three days.
A house, some bushes and a Coca-Cola machine fell victim to unforgiving flames.
The most serious fire occurred at around 11 p.m. Friday. Battalion Chief Ray Merrill reported that a deck on a SW Fourth Avenue house started burning. Firefighters arrived quickly and found that the fire had extended into the structure.
It took about 20 minutes for firefighters to get the blaze under control, with help from North Whidbey Fire and Rescue.
Nobody was injured, but the home was badly damaged. Merrill estimates the fire caused $75,000 in damage to the house alone.
“I can’t tell if it’s a total loss or not,” he said.
Merrill is still investigating the cause of the fire, but he said it appears to be accidental.
A neighbor said a man was home alone at the time of the fire and he claimed it started when he left a lit cigarette on the deck.
On Sunday at about 4 p.m., firefighters responded to a report of a fire in bushes close to an apartment complex on S. Oak Harbor Street. The residents evacuated in case the building started burning.
But Merrill said the firefighters were able to easily extinguish the burning bushes before the blaze spread to the apartments.
The cause of the fire, he said, was charcoal briquettes that someone had thrown into the bushes, thinking they were cold.
Less than four hours later, the department received a report of a Coca-Cola machine on fire next to Saar’s Market Place Food and Drug. Upon arrival, firefighters found a pop machine with smoke billowing out.
Extinguishing the electrical fire was pretty easy. Merrill said the responders unplugged the machine and let it cool down.
The cause, the battalion chief discovered, was a malfunction in the mechanism that accepts dollar bills. The machine, worth about $5,000, was destroyed.
While it was an eventful few days for firefighters, Merrill actually missed out on the excitement, though he has to investigate each case afterward. He was at a Terri Clark concert.Contact Whidbey News Times Assistant editor Jessie Stensland at email@example.com or 360.675.6611 ext. 5056.