Fire damages pilings below Vancouver Red Lion

By Craig Brown, Columbian Managing Editor and Patty Hastings, Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith



Vancouver firefighters quickly snuffed a fire in the pier pilings below the Red Lion Hotel at the Quay this afternoon.

With the charred ruins of the Thunderbird Hotel in plain view directly across the Columbia River, the fire was controlled before it could spread into the business.

Someone who saw the smoke from the dock called the fire in around 4:45 p.m., said Dave James, spokesman for the Vancouver Fire Department. The fire hadn’t set off any alarms at the hotel.

Firefighters arrived to find smoke and flames coming from a small area on the west end of the pier. They lowered a hose from one of the fire engines over the dock railing, so firefighters could fight the fire from a small rescue boat in the water.

Mindful of the Sept. 2 conflagration that destroyed the much larger Thunderbird Hotel, formerly the Quay’s sister property, firefighters called for multiple units and an assist from the Portland Fire Bureau’s rescue boat stationed at Hayden Island.

James said Portland’s boat takes about 20 minutes to respond because of the “no wake” zones it has to pass through to get to the other side of the river. Vancouver firefighters were able to get the fire under control in 10 minutes.

“That just illustrates our need for a boat with firefighting capabilities,” James said. The Vancouver Fire Department is waiting on a grant from FEMA to get a marine quick response vessel.

The Red Lion Hotel at the Quay, a Vancouver fixture for decades, is built on a pier over the Columbia River. The pilings underneath the hotel and restaurant are treated with creosote, a flammable petroleum-based product used to protect wood from water damage.

“We’re fortunate the fire was small, but that’s a significant exposure,” James said.

The site is owned by the Port of Vancouver and the business is operated by Spokane-based Red Lion Hotels Corp. The hotel and restaurant, located at 100 Columbia St. just downstream of the Interstate 5 Bridge, remained open for business.

The cause has not yet been determined.