Olympia firefighters, as well as crews from Lacey and McLane Black Lake fire departments, were summoned to a two-alarm warehouse fire in downtown Olympia early Tuesday morning, and a code enforcement officer said he saw signs it might have been set.
A call was placed to 911 about 1 a.m. Tuesday, and firefighters arrived to find a fully involved fire in the storage warehouse in the 200 block of Adams Street.
“I am glad that everyone is safe and that we didn’t lose anything more than the original fire building,” Deputy Fire Chief Gregory Wright said Tuesday morning. “This fire was huge before we got here, and we only had a three-minute response time.”
Firefighters set up two ladder trucks and multiple ground monitors to fight the fire from the outside and to protect another building immediately to the west of the warehouse. A second alarm was then called. It took firefighters approximately 90 minutes to knock down the main fire.
Between the warehouse and an adjacent building is an alley filled with new and used propane tanks. The main concern was cooling the tanks and getting them away from the engulfed warehouse.
“Until we knew that the fire was pushed away from them, those propane tanks were very concerning,” Wright said. “Most of the tanks were new and probably only had a little bit of propane in them, but even a little bit can blow off.”
The cause was undetermined Tuesday, and the interior of the building was too hot and unstable for fire officials to investigate most of the day.
But Chris Grabowski, a code enforcement officer investigating the scene, says the building’s exterior had V-shaped scorch marks that are often evidence of arson.
“On one side of the building there are tell-tale signs that the fire was deliberately started,” Grabowski said. “We just don’t know who or when or why.”
Property owner Christophe Allen said the fire will cost him a large portion of his business. Allen is co-owner of Acme Fuel Company in Olympia and he said his parts inventory and two company trucks were among the items lost. Allen also rented part of the warehouse to a tea wholesaler.
“We had a lot of our business in there,” Allen said. “It’s painful but not devastating.”
Preliminary damage estimates were $350,000 for the building and $500,000 for the contents.
Olympia Fire Department responded with four engines, one ladder truck, two medic units, and a command unit. Lacey Fire District 3 responded with additional units, including their ladder truck on the first alarm. The second alarm brought units from Tumwater, and Thurston County Fire Districts 6, 8 and 9.
Firefighters and investigators, the city of Olympia building official, and property owners remained at the scene most of the day to assess the stability of the building.