UPDATE: Body found in burning house east of Ridgefield

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

Published:

Updated: May 1, 2012, 11:10 PM

 

Fatal fires in Clark County

Clark County has had at least five fatal fires in the past year.

• Dec. 7, 2011: After holding off emergency workers with gunfire, Steven Stanbary lit his house on fire and shot himself, his wife, Leona Stanbary, and her twin sister Mona Daugherty at 3275 F. St. in Washougal.

• Nov. 22: Marriah Buhman, 28, died at the Towne Square Apartments in Washougal.

• Aug. 1: Douglas A. Larsen was found dead of a shotgun wound in the backyard of a burning house on Lieser Road.

• April 26: Debra K. Vanderlay died after being trapped in her burning attic in Harney Heights.

• April 24: Tuan Dao and five of his children died in a blaze he set on Easter morning at 15304 N.E. 13th Circle.

— Dave Kern

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photoSmoke pours from a house at 26908 N.E. 45th Avenue east of Ridgefield on Tuesday night. A man was found dead in the kitchen.

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photoThis 2005 picture from Clark County property records shows the house at 26908 N.E. 45th Avenue, east of Ridgefield. The house burned on Tuesday. Firefighters found a man dead in the kitchen.

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Dale Shoemaker, 59, grew up in the farmhouse at 26908 N.E. 45th Ave. in rural Clark County east of Ridgefield, and is believed to have died there in a fire late Tuesday.

Clark County Fire & Rescue crews responded to the blaze at the two-story house at 8:16 p.m. but quickly ran out of water due to the remote location three miles from the nearest fire hydrant, said Battalion Chief Tim Dawdy.

Heavy fire conditions and the water shortage halted search and rescue efforts about 15 minutes into the fight.

“They tried the best they could, but the fire beat them back,” Dawdy said.

About 25 firefighters, nine fire engines and three water tenders from Clark County Fire & Rescue and Clark County Fire District 3 responded to the blaze. It took them about an hour to gain control over the fire.

“There were 20 trucks on my road and I couldn’t get to my house,” neighbor John Holtmann said of his arrival home Tuesday night. “I had to park 400 yards away.”

Shoemaker’s house was extremely isolated, off a long driveway of rural Northeast 45th Avenue, which branches off of the main road, 259th Street.

“This is a real problem with fires in isolated areas, because it’s not discovered quickly,” Dawdy said. “That delays neighbors’ seeing it and reporting it. Access is another challenge. Then, there was no access to fire hydrants. All the water, we had to bring with us.”

The body has not been positively identified, Dawdy said. The cause of the blaze is also unknown. The Clark County Sheriff’s Office and Clark County Fire Marshal’s Office are investigating the case.

The 1940, 1,000-square-foot house owned by Shoemaker’s mother, Wynter Shoemaker-Lovejoy of Yelm, was completely destroyed in the fire, as was at least one vehicle.

The house overlooked the East Fork of the Lewis River, said Holtmann, a Vancouver attorney.

He said Shoemaker had dementia. "He needed help.”

The attorney said Shoemaker’s sister and brother-in-law had been set to go to court on Friday to get guardianship of the man.

“I’m sorry he’s gone,” Holtmann said.

At 11:45 p.m. Tuesday, Dawdy said the fire was completely under control. In all, the effort involved personnel from Clark County Fire and Rescue, Fire District 3, Fire District 6 and Vancouver Fire Department.

(This story has been edited to reflect new information provided by Shoemaker's sister Wednesday.

Paris Achen: 360-735-4551; http://twitter.com/Col_Trends; http://facebook.com/ColTrends; paris.achen@columbian.com.