Waterfront fire marks Kingston’s third total-loss in one month

KINGSTON — Originally built in 1939, a Washington Boulevard house near Appletree Cove in Kingston was consumed by a fire which appears to have originated on the exterior of the house’s north side.

Crews spent hours on site late Friday and into early Saturday morning extinguishing the blaze and the subsequent “hot spots” after the fire was under control.

The owners (a couple) were not home at the time of the fire, according to Michele Laboda of North Kitsap Fire & Rescue. The 2,200 square-foot beach house was used primarily as a vacation home and one of the owners’ brother had been living there.

As of Monday morning, investigators believed that the fire originated outside the house near a covered porch, where some construction had been taking place.

“Found in the same area were a number of indicators that construction work had been going on,” Laboda said. “There was the remains of a power saw, there was a stereo, there were paintbrushes, paint cans, things like that.”

Laboda explained that investigators did not appear to have any reason to believe that the fire was caused by anything other than an accident.

“Investigators typically don’t ever go to a criminal cause until they can rule out all other causes and they have no reason to believe that there was a criminal cause since there are many possible accidental causes,” she explained.

Laboda noted that based on her experience, there are a number of possible accidental causes associated with fires that occur in construction areas.

“Electrical connections, extension cords that are typically used to power tools when construction is underway, some paints and finishes are combustible and brushes, rags, paint thinner and related materials sometimes play into a fire cause. Sometimes people are using smoking materials, these are all the many possibilities.”

One neighbor said she’s never seen anything like it. Hilarie Hanson lives a few houses down and said she knows the owners.

“It was a home that he grew up in,” Hanson said. “It was sold away from the family and he bought it back. They’ve been renovating it … and it just went up. Pretty sad.”

Hilarie and her husband, Jack Hanson, first noticed the fire around 8 p.m. Friday evening. The house was located on the beach and sat below neighboring homes, making it difficult for firefighters to reach. This also made it tough for neighbors to notice it until the flames had overtaken it.

“It went fast,” Hilarie said. “When we first saw it, it looked like somebody had a big bonfire.”

Just minutes later, they noticed it was completely engulfed.

North Kitsap Fire & Rescue, Poulsbo Fire Department and Bainbridge Island Fire Department all responded to the call as the structure proved difficult to access. The cabin was located on a single-lane road with steep, narrow curves without a fire hydrant nearby for crews to use.

To compound matters, a low tide prevented NKF&R’s Marine 81, from providing assistance from the water. Crews attempted to use it but couldn’t get close enough to spray water onto the growing flames — which, crews reported, reached as tall as 80 feet.

“Officials also note that firefighters succeeded in preventing the fierce blaze from spreading to adjacent homes — a task that would have been even more difficult had the fire occurred during the dry season,” Laboda said. “Furthermore, no one was hurt in the effort despite steep terrain and the hundreds of feet of stairs and ramps that had to be traversed to reach the home.”

It took until the early hours of Saturday morning to control and extinguish the flames. The cause of the fire is still under investigation as neighbors and crews both report that nobody was home at the time the fire was reported.

The owners are insured, Laboda said, adding that “the displaced man has declined any assistance from the Red Cross.”

The Washington Boulevard fire was the third total-loss fire in the area during the month of March. A March 1 fire on Marine View Drive and a March 4 fire on Sandy Beach Lane, completely consumed the homes in which they were reported.

Laboda said the damage to these homes may have been prevented, had they been outfitted with a monitored smoke detector, a device which notifies authorities when the detector goes off. Laboda noted that both the Washington Boulevard fire and the Sandy Beach Lane Fire were not reported until the flames had broken through to the exterior of the homes.

— Jacob Moore is a reporter for Kitsap Daily News. Contact him at jmoore@soundpublishing.com or follow him on Twitter @JMooreKDN.