Fire took down an iconic Coupeville barn Monday night, turning the historic structure into a twisted heap of metal and charred timber.
Firefighters with Central Whidbey Fire &Rescue responded to a report of a house and barn fire at about 8 p.m. They arrived a short time later to find the Smith Barn on Ebey Road fully engulfed in flames.
Within 20 minutes, the entire structure had collapsed. The farmhouse nearby escaped damage.
The Smith Barn was an integral part of Georgie Smith’s Willowood Farm. It has been in the Smith family for more than a century and was one of Ebey Prairie’s most recognizable and photographed landmarks.
Charles Arndt, Smith’s husband, reportedly dislocated his shoulder while running from his home, but everyone else in the family escaped without injury.
Smith, a fourth-generation farmer, was attending a meeting with other farmers Monday night at the Pacific Rim Institute for Environmental Stewardship on Parker Road when she learned of the fire and rushed home.
“She said, ‘My barn’s on fire.’ She jumped up and ran out,” said Robert Pelant, chief executive officer of the Pacific Rim Institute.
“We just were all sick.”
The fire’s orange glow could be seen from miles away. One firefighter with North Whidbey Fire and Rescue, which also responded to the scene, said they could see the glow in the sky from San de Fuca across Penn Cove as they traveled along State Highway 20.
To get water to fight the blaze, because the nearest fire hydrant is more than a mile from the farm, four fire tenders were used to shuttle water from Coupeville High School to the site.
From Ebey Road, the water had to be pumped through hoses strung along a dirt driveway to an engine parked near the barn.
“It presented some challenges because it’s 1,000 feet from the road,” said fire chief Ed Hartin, of Central Whidbey Fire &Rescue. “Being familiar with the location, I called in an additional engine from North Whidbey and an additional tender from North Whidbey.”
The fire burned so hot that a fence post about 50 feet away was still burning an hour after the fire had broken out.
Hartin said Tuesday morning the cause of the fire is still unknown but added there is no evidence of anything incendiary.
Firefighters remained onsite over night and were still putting water on hot spots and small flareups Tuesday morning.
“The people who reported the fire said it appeared to be more involved on the west side at the beginning,” Hartin said. “But at this point, because there’s all that roof metal and so forth, we really can’t get in there until that gets moved.”
Through social media, Georgie Smith said that everyone was OK, aside from her husband’s shoulder injury, but she lost almost all of her farm equipment in the blaze.
Her parents’ nearby farmhouse was fine, she said.
Smith and her family live on the property, but further away from the barn.
In the past, Smith said that she believed the barn was built in the 1880s. A new metal roof, made possible by grant money received from the Ebey’s Forever Fund, was installed on the barn in late 2012 .