A Virgin Mary statue stands, mostly undamaged, among the remnants of a house that burned down Thursday night in Freeland. The cause is being investigated and no one was injured. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News Group

A Virgin Mary statue stands, mostly undamaged, among the remnants of a house that burned down Thursday night in Freeland. The cause is being investigated and no one was injured. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News Group

Blaze that destroyed home being investigated

Officials from local fire districts, the Island County Sheriff’s Office and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are investigating the cause of a fire that destroyed a home Thursday night in Freeland.

Central Whidbey Island Fire and Rescue and South Whidbey Fire/EMS responded to a residential fire off of Smugglers Cove Road around 6:45 p.m. Thursday and arrived to find half the house engulfed in flames, according to Capt. Jerry Helm with Central Whidbey.

No one was around and it hasn’t been determined if someone was living in the house at the time, Helm said.

Nearby trees and grass were also on fire, but firefighters managed to stop the flames from spreading into the dense woods nearby.

“They did a great job,” said Lt. Mike Hawley of the Island County Sheriff’s Office.

Helm said the crew was able to isolate one side of the house so it didn’t sustain as much damage. Firefighters entered the less damaged side and conducted a search but didn’t find anyone. It took around two hours to get flames under control, and crews performed overhaul to extinguish the last of the embers until about midnight. A unit returned to the scene and did more overhaul around 3:30 a.m., he said.

“It’s a total loss,” Helm said of the house.

Around 10 personnel from South Whidbey Fire/EMS joined the approximately 10 Central Whidbey firefighters in the effort.

On Friday morning a fire investigator from ATF and Hawley came to the property to help the fire districts with the investigation. Hawley said it’s being treated as a possible crime scene “just to be careful.” The homeowner lives in an assisted living facility and it’s believed family members were inhabiting the house at the time, but this hasn’t been confirmed yet and the family members haven’t been located, he said.

Helm said the investigation will examine burn patterns and depth of charring to locate a point of origin, and then they will look for “anything out of place.”

At least four houses have burned down in South and Central Whidbey this summer and another home on the north end was badly damaged.

An ATF agent scales a fire engine ladder to get an aerial view of a house that was destroyed in a fire Thursday night in Freeland. Central and South Whidbey fire districts and the sheriff’s office are aiding in the investigation. Officials say it’s too early to know if the origin of the fire is suspicious. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News Group

An ATF agent scales a fire engine ladder to get an aerial view of a house that was destroyed in a fire Thursday night in Freeland. Central and South Whidbey fire districts and the sheriff’s office are aiding in the investigation. Officials say it’s too early to know if the origin of the fire is suspicious. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News Group

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Photo by The Everett Herald / 2016
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