Waterfront businesses burn in Friday Harbor

Loss of building will hurt San Juan Island's economy

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FRIDAY HARBOR -- A fire early Saturday gutted a building that houses a well-known restaurant and tourism businesses on San Juan Island's picturesque Friday Harbor waterfront.

Fire crews were called at about 2:40 a.m. Saturday, with more ferried in from Anacortes and from Orcas and Lopez islands.

"There were flames at least 20 or 30 feet high coming out of the building at one point," said San Juan Island Fire & Rescue spokeswoman Carolyn Hudson.

The building near the state ferry landing houses Downriggers Restaurant and other businesses, including Friday Harbor Marine, Friday Harbor Yachts, San Juan Safaris and San Juan Excursions.

It appears to be a total loss -- a big hit on the local economy, especially because the restaurant employs about 50 people, Hudson said.

Firefighters planned to work all day to be sure the fire didn't spread.

There were no reports of injuries. The cause of the fire is unknown, Hudson said.

Officials said the Port of Friday Harbor will try to help the businesses relocate. San Juan Excursions' whale watch boat, the Odyssey, was moved to a different slip.

Port Director Marilyn O'Connor said the Port of Friday Harbor evacuated Spring Street Pier, one of four piers there, so booms could be placed to minimize any potential runoff from the firefighting efforts.