A pair of dramatic fires rattled Plateau communities late last week – one for the loss of life and another for the damage done to a small-town institution.
Flames were doused, the smoke cleared and, in both instances, investigations were quickly concluded.
One dies, two hurt
A plume of acrid smoke and the sound of helicopters hovering overhead marked the scene of a tragic, Thursday afternoon fire.
It was a few minutes before 4 p.m. when the first call arrived at East Pierce Fire and Rescue. When fire crews arrived just four minutes later at the fully-engulfed, single-wide mobile home – just off the intersection of Prairie Ridge Drive East and 147th Street East – they located a deceased male inside the burning structure. Two others sustained life-threatening injuries and were quickly transported by ambulance to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
The victim was later identified as 83-year-old Robert Reeder. The injured men were identified as Reeder’s adult sons.
The blaze was in the Prairie Ridge neighborhood on the south side of Bonney Lake.
The Pierce County Fire Marshall’s Office was called upon to determine what went terribly wrong. By the following day, it had been determined that the blaze originated on an outside deck on the front of the mobile home, but the exact cause will remain undetermined.
Investigators did, however, rule out arson.
Witnesses reported hearing explosions coming from the home during the fire, but those were not related to the fire’s origin. Fire Marshal Dave Dupille said the sounds of an explosion are related to the high heat found in house fires.
He added that the most likely cause of the explosions the neighbors heard was either pressurized containers—such as aerosol cans—heating until they explode or the sound a backdraft makes when a fire has consumed all the available oxygen and suddenly explodes when more oxygen is made available, typically because a door or window has been opened.
“There was some ammunition found at the scene,” Dupille said. “That may have contributed to [the sound of explosions] as well.”
Propane tanks were found in front of the home, but none had burst.
Blaze spreads to VFW
Buckley’s Veterans of Foreign Wars hall suffered extensive damage Friday afternoon, the result of a neighboring fire that jumped property lines.
It was 12:21 p.m. when the alarm sounded, sending firefighters to the Buckley Motel, sitting just a short block west of state Route 410 on Main Street. They found a motel outbuilding engulfed in flames and a fire that had transferred to a tree and spread to the VFW hall. The two buildings are just a few steps apart.
An investigator was called to determine the cause of the fire, an endeavor that took very little time.
It was found that a motel employee was welding inside the outbuilding, which sparked the blaze.
Emergency responders saw that motel guests were evacuated and extinguished the blaze. The Buckley Fire Department received assistance from departments in Enumclaw, Carbonado, Greenwater and East Pierce Fire and Rescue.
The VFW hall suffered noticeable damage but firefighters were focused on preserving community history as well as dousing flames.
Assistant Fire Chief Eric Skogen said crews were able to quickly remove banners, flags and other important memorabilia from inside the hall.