Friday morning's fire at the Oyster House may have started in a clothes dryer, an investigator with the Olympia Fire Department said Monday.
Olympia Fire Lt. Brian Schenk said Monday that the cause of the fire is still under investigation. But he added that there are indications a clothes dryer in a storage area near the kitchen may be an ignition source.
"We certainly can't rule out the dryer," he said.
A passerby reported smoke coming from the Oyster House about 12:17 a.m. Friday.
When fire crews forced their way through the front doors five minutes later, they reported heavy smoke and fire near the kitchen areas. Firefighters then cut a hole through the roof and found heavy fire underneath.
As conditions deteriorated, firefighters retreated from the inside of the building about 12:45 a.m. and started attacking the fire from the outside, Olympia Deputy Fire Chief Greg Wright said.
The historic restaurant, located at 320 Fourth Avenue in the heart of downtown Olympia, was completely destroyed.
Fire investigators won't be able to closely examine the dryer or the kitchen until they get a crane into the area to remove the heavy debris there, Schenk said.
Dryer fires are not uncommon, Schenk said. They can sometimes start when an oily or dirty rag ignites if it is left in a drier and not immediately removed after a drying cycle is completed, he said. Dryer fires also can be caused by an electrical failure, Schenk added.
Schenk said the Oyster House's insurer will likely hire a contractor to remove the heavy debris with a crane on Tuesday or Wednesday. Fire investigators then will be able to take a better look at the kitchen area, and the dryer, he said.
The Oyster House was fully insured, he added.
The Oyster House's owner, Tom Barrett, has vowed to rebuild. On Monday, Barrett's wife, Leticia Barrett, said that Olympia Mayor Stephen Buxbaum and City Manager Steve Hall visited the couple on Saturday and told them the city will do everything in its power to help them rebuild on the site as quickly as possible.
Barrett added that they believe they can begin rebuilding soon, but they need more information from the insurance adjuster. She said they will meet with an adjuster on Tuesday.
Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445 firstname.lastname@example.org