Fire decimates home, claims dog of deployed Oak Harbor sailor

A fire broke out in the garage of a home on SW Second Court in Oak Harbor at about 9 p.m. Wednesday. The blaze fully engulfed the garage, destroying a Volkswagen Baja parked inside. Flames and smoke also damaged the interior of the house, blackened the windows and the heat caused the vinyl siding to peel from the structure.

No one was home except for a “puggle” named Sara. Whidbey General Hospital EMT Jo Lacy, paramedic Rich King and North Whidbey Fire Capt. Jim Anema attempted to revive the dog with a canine oxygen mask recently donated to the fire department by Greene’s Gun Shop. However, it was too late to save the dog.

Oak Harbor Battalion Chief Ray Merrill said the cause of the blaze is still undetermined, although it seems to have originated in the garage. Weather may have also contributed to the fire’s quick acceleration.

“The southern prevailing wind didn’t help,” he added.

A ladder truck, two engines and an aid car responded from the Oak Harbor Fire Department, an engine and rescue rig responded from North Whidbey Fire and Rescue, and a Whidbey General Hospital EMS unit arrived on scene, in addition to a Puget Sound Energy worker who was called to turn off electricity to the house.

Fire personnel remained on scene until midnight and a crew member stayed through the night to watch the home, Merrill said. The fire department continued to investigate the origin of the fire Thursday; however, as of Friday the cause was still undetermined.

“There was definitely a ‘low-order’ explosion, and the fire was instantaneous,” he said, adding that by all other indications, the fire appeared to be accidental.

Merrill received several reports from area residents who said “their walls actually rattled because of the explosion.”

The homeowner is in the Navy and was on deployment, according to Merrill who spoke with the roommate and the ex-wife of the deployed property owner who returned to Oak Harbor Thursday afternoon.

Neighbor Barb Olsen, who lives across the street with her husband John, was in her home when the fire started.

“I was on the phone when my husband said, ‘Did you hear that? It sounded like a clap of thunder.’”

The couple looked outside and saw flames coming from the garage. John called 911 and other neighbors broke a window in an attempt to save the dog, a cross between a beagle and a pug, she said.

Barb reported hearing small explosions and popping sounds coming from the garage, which was fully engulfed in flames when the fire department arrived.

“What a shock,” she said, adding that the home was owned by Brett Bingham.

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