Woman, 28, dies in Washougal apartment fire

Firefighters respond quickly, keep blaze from spreading

By John Branton, Columbian Staff Reporter

Published:

Updated: November 22, 2011, 10:03 PM

 
2900 H St.

WASHOUGAL — A Tuesday afternoon fire claimed the life a woman, believed to be 28, at the Towne Square Apartments in Washougal, while fast-responding firefighters were able to stop the blaze from spreading.

The fire was reported about 3:30 p.m. in an upstairs unit of the complex at 2900 H St., accessed off of 32nd Street, a major arterial.

“I heard yelling and saw the smoke coming out of the top,” said Barbara Peet, who lives nearby. “It was bad. The back windows just blew out.”

Fire crews arrived to find flames coming out of upper story windows.

Firefighters from Washougal, Camas and East County Fire & Rescue doused the flames so quickly that the outside wall and eves above the blown-out windows were not blackened. Camas Fire Chief Nick Swinhart said the first crews arrived within a couple of minutes.

“It’s very lucky it didn’t spread to more units,” Swinhart said.

A search inside the second-floor apartment led to the discovery of the body.

Swinhart said fire officials originally were told the victim was a child.

Keri McDowell, a friend of the victim’s family, was speaking on her cellphone with the victim’s parents at the apartment complex. She said the woman’s grandfather had dropped her off shortly before the fire broke out. She’d told him she was going to take a bath.

McDowell said the victim had lived there about three or four years and was a talented singer and tattoo artist who loved candles and scented oils.

The victim was a college student studying biology, McDowell said.

She provided the victim’s name and age as Marriah Buhman, 28. Several comments on The Columbian’s website story called her Marriah, with at least one saying she was with the angels.

An official said the apartment was rented by Marriah Buhman, but said the victim’s name would not be revealed officially until after an autopsy, perhaps on Wednesday.

An official with the Clark County Medical Examiner’s Office came to the scene, as did Red Cross volunteers.

Clark County Fire Marshal Jon Dunaway said Tuesday night that three investigators were at the scene and had not yet determined the fire’s cause.