OLYMPIA – A fire in downtown Olympia Sunday morning severely damaged a building where Olympia Fireplace & Spa keeps its fleet of trucks and other inventory. And while fire officials are uncertain when the investigation to determine cause will begin, some tenants who live in a nearby apartment say they heard fireworks going off in the alley several hours before flames erupted from the structure.
About 5:30 a.m., the Olympia Fire Department responded to the blaze that was contained to a warehouse that shares a building with Ramblin Jacks Restaurant on the 500 block of 4th Avenue East near Olympia City Hall. Olympia Fireplace & Spa’s retail store is located across the alley from the warehouse and was spared. The restaurant has smoke damage and fire investigators are concerned about the condition of the masonry wall that separates the restaurant and the warehouse, said Olympia Assistant Chief Greg Wright.
“The back portion of the roof is very unstable and parts of it have come down,” said Wright. “They (Olympia Fireplace & Spa) won’t be getting back into that until they have a significant rebuild.”
The building was constructed in the 1920s and Wright said the back end of the structure is a “total loss.”
Olympia Fireplace & Spa owner Byron Dixon stood across the street behind caution tape early Sunday morning and watched in disbelief as firefighters continued to battle hot spots while tow trucks moved charred vans out of the roughly 6,500-square-foot warehouse.
Dixon drove up from his home in Centralia after getting a call from an employee about 30 minutes after the fire was called in.
“It’s devastating,” Dixon said. “My ability to make a living and my inventory is gone.”
While investigators have yet to assess damages, Dixon said he thinks the fire destroyed about $400,000 in equipment and inventory, including a fleet of seven vans.
Because fire crews continued to battle hot spots throughout the day and because of the instability of the site, Wright said investigators and structural engineers wouldn’t enter the warehouse Sunday.
However, tenants who live across the alley from the warehouse told investigators they heard a firework go off in the alley about 3 a.m.
“We all woke up to a firework,” said Colleen Dixon, who awoke again several hours later choking on smoke. The tenants were evacuated by fire crews, and after speaking with investigators Sunday morning, left the scene unsure if they’d be able to spend the night in their own beds.
Wright confirmed investigators are aware of reports of fireworks but that “until we can get in and look, we aren’t going to be able to confirm that that had anything to do with it.”
Crews arrived to find smoke and flames coming from the front and rear of the building. They attempted an interior attack, but flames from the roof forced them to withdraw and fight the fire from the exterior of the building.
Crews had the blaze under control by about 6:30 a.m., Wright said. Response included 18 fire companies from Olympia Fire Department, Lacey Fire District 3, Tumwater Fire Department, and Fire Districts 8 and 6.
MOST OF ROOF GONE
Both business owners affected by the blaze attempted to assess the damage Sunday morning.
As he looked at the warehouse that now is missing most of its roof, Dixon said Olympia Fireplace & Spa had planned to make upgrades to the front of the building, including a fresh paint job.
“We’re trying to clean up downtown, he said, alluding to the recently opened City Hall located kitty-corner to his business. “That building (warehouse) is going to have to come down.”
Dixon said his retail store will be open for business today and hopes “to make the most of it.”
Ramblin Jacks owner Adam Adrian said he doesn’t plan to be open for business today.
About nine hours after arriving on scene, fire crews finally left to let owners put up fences and secure alleys for the time being; 4th Avenue was also reopened to traffic after several blocks were closed during the fire.