Attic fire closes Senior Thrift in Freeland

Senior Thrift in Freeland is closed due to a fire that broke out in the store this past weekend.

No one was hurt and firefighters were able to extinguish the flames quickly, limiting damage to the building. The inside of the structure and its contents, however, sustained smoke damage, the extent of which was still being evaluated Monday.

Organization officials could not say when the store would reopen.

“I have no idea,” said Cheryn Weiser, executive director of Island Senior Resources.

The organization, formerly known as Island County Senior Services, was already working with its insurance company on calculating damages and with a professional smoke rehabilitation firm. Weiser said she hoped to have more information in a few days.

The blaze was reported at about 2 a.m. Sunday morning by the store’s security company. Store manager Cindi Quigley got a call at home alerting her of a “security breach.” She arrived at about 2:30 a.m. expecting to find a burglar, but instead found a fleet of fire trucks and smoke pouring from the structure’s windows.

Firefighters told Quigley that they arrived at the scene just in time.

“They said another 30 minutes and we would have lost the building,” she said.

South Whidbey Fire/EMS officials were not available for comment Monday.

The fire reportedly began in a furnace located in an attic; wiring may be to blame, according to senior resources officials, but that won’t be confirmed until experts finish their investigation.

Clinton electrician Jerry Beck, owner of Jerry Beck & Company Inc. and a retired captain with the fire district, inspected the attic after the blaze. He said two structural trusses were burned and needed to be replaced, and reported significant damage to the building’s electrical systems: lights, fans, a heat recovery system that recirculates warm air from the second floor to the first floor, and other electrical systems were all destroyed.

“Basically anything (electrical) attached to the ceiling of that building is not working,” Beck said.

He noted some positives, saying firefighters did a good job of limiting water damage to the immediate area and that much of the store’s inventory may be salvageable. Hard surfaced items like tables, silver and dish ware can be wiped down, and clothes can be laundered, though at some expense.

“It’s time consuming and expensive,” he said.

According to Weiser, the fire has caused some logistical headaches as the building doubles as the organization’s finance and administrative office.

Senior Resources is a county-wide organization that runs a host of programs for seniors on Whidbey and Camano islands. They include: Information & Assistance, Family Caregiver Support, Meals on Wheels, seven meal sites, Medical Transportation, Adult Day services, HUD subsidized housing, and State Health Insurance Benefits Advisers, or SHIBA, for seniors on Whidbey and Camano islands.

Computers were coated in toxic smoke residue — Weiser said simply touching them leaves one’s hands black. The computers cannot be removed for cleaning and use until after the insurance adjusters finish their examination of the buildings contents.

Data is backed up and the organization is working to buy new computers for employees who are being relocated to a temporary headquarters at Bayview, according to Weiser.

While it’s unclear how long the store will be closed, Weiser said the organization would like to keep receiving donations but needs a temporary storage facility first. Anyone who has a clean space and who is willing to donate its use to senior resources is asked to call 360-331-5701.