Fire officials urge safety after two fires in one day

Nobody was injured in back-to-back house fires on North Whidbey Thursday, but fire officials are again asking residents to be extra diligent about fire safety this winter.

Whidbey fire officials have been preaching the importance of smoke detectors in the wake of a fire that killed a mother and her two children on North Whidbey just before Christmas.

“This is really concerning us at the moment,” said Deputy Fire Chief Mark Kirko with North Whidbey Fire &Rescue. “The last few fires we’ve had, we’ve not found evidence of any working smoke detectors.”

The first fire on Thursday was reported at 3 a.m. near Boe and Taylor roads. A family of four evacuated the home after hearing a loud bang from falling debris caused by the fire.

Kirko with North Whidbey Fire &Rescue said the cause of the fire was an overloaded circuit due to multiple extension cords running auxiliary heating units.

The second fire occurred at approximately 3 p.m. near the 29400 block of State Highway 20 near Grace Community Church. More than 30 emergency responders from North Whidbey Fire &Rescue, the Navy fire department and the Oak Harbor Fire Department converged on scene to extinguish the blaze.

No injuries were reported. The cause of the fire was determined to be from “the misuse of smoking materials,” Kirko said.

Kirko said firefighters from station 27 on Monroe Landing were the first to arrive and had water on the fire within five minutes of the call. He said it was particularly difficult to fight this fire because it appeared to travel upward inside an exterior wall and into the attic that contained nearly two feet of blown-in insulation.

“It’s a real pain to deal with once it gets into the insulation,” Kirko said. “It’s like fighting a fire in quicksand.”

Firefighters were forced to remove siding and drywall, which added to water damage from containment efforts. Kirko said, in spite of the damage to the home, the owner was extremely lucky that most of his personal belongings were saved or salvageable.

With temperatures falling to unusual lows, he said fires appear to be on the rise.

“More people are using more heaters they would not normally be using,” he said.

In his 35 years of firefighting, Kirko said, he has seen his fair share of tragedy. In response to the fire that killed a woman and her two young children last month on DeGraff Road, North Whidbey Fire &Rescue received 100 donated smoke detectors as part of the nationwide First Alert Program.

Kirko said any community member in need can call North Whidbey Fire &Rescue to receive a free detector. In addition, the fire department will also gladly come out to install it and provide a home fire safety inspection free of charge.

“It’s senseless today to have a home without a smoke detector,” Kirko said.

For more information about the free smoke detectors and some fire safety tips, check out the department’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/north whidbeyfire

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