23 displaced after Thursday morning fire on Fones Road

Residents in apartment complex bang on doors, allowing all to escape without major injuries

jpawloski@theolympian.comNovember 1, 2013 

A fire after midnight Wednesday displaced about 23 residents of the Bellwether Apartments on Fones Road, causing about $1 million in damage.

A resident reportedly suffered minor smoke inhalation when he tried to save his cats.

Two men who live in the apartment building noticed flames about 12:30 a.m. and alerted neighbors by going door to door and shouting warnings, Olympia Deputy Fire Chief Greg Wright said.

Resident James Kocher, who lives in a building directly behind the one that caught fire, said Thursday that he was awakened by his neighbors screaming warnings to the other residents.

“There were neighbors yelling and banging on everybody’s door,” Kocher said.

Julia Pendleton said it was frightening to see a building in her apartment complex on fire.

“I was looking out my back window and all of a sudden I saw an orange glow.”

On Thursday about noon, officials with the Olympia Fire Department were still assessing the damage to the building in the 1400 block of Fones Road, including whether the owners can rebuild a portion of the damaged structure or will have to tear down the building.

Residents who lived in the 10 apartments damaged by the fire were allowed several hours Thursday to go inside their water- and smoke-damaged apartments to retrieve what they could.

The fire damaged 10 apartments, one of which was unoccupied.

A deputy coroner for the Thurston County Coroner’s Office suffered minor smoke inhalation when he went back inside his place during the fire to try to save his three cats. Two of the cats were later found dead in the apartment, but a third was rescued Thursday morning unharmed.

On Thursday afternoon, an official from the American Red Cross Rainier Chapter said that so far it did not need to find any alternative housing for any of the residents displaced by the fire, because many had already found friends or family to stay with.

Thurston County Coroner Gary Warnock was on scene at the fire Thursday and said that the deputy coroner was fine and had been released from the hospital.

Chief Wright said the cause of the fire is under investigation. The fire might have started on a back balcony area of one of the apartments, he said.

Wright said he does not think the fire started in one of the wood-burning fireplaces that are in each apartment.

Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445 jpawloski@theolympian.com

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