For nearly 40 years, John Matson worked as a self-employed carpenter making log cabin homes. He worked out of a wood shop about 60 feet away from his Brush Prairie house.
On Wednesday morning, he stood outside the 40-by-40 foot structure and watched as his workspace was destroyed by flames.
“I don’t know what to think,” Matson, 74, said. “God gives and God takes.”
John and his wife Delores were asleep when a neighbor noticed the bright fire and heavy smoke just before 7:30 a.m.
“I ran over and banged on their door while at the same time trying to call 911,” said Adrian Maitland, who lives next door.
The Matsons awoke and quickly moved two cars that were parked close to the shop. Neither was damaged.
Fire crews were called to the residence, 11430 N.E. Ward Road, and defensively attacked the flames, which were under control by 8:30 a.m.
Because the nearest fire hydrant was a half-mile away, crews from Clark County Fire District 3 shuttled water from the hydrant by using three large tenders.
Battalion Chief Jeff Stewart said that the agency had just put a new 3,000-gallon water tender in service a day earlier.
“They’re made for these exact situations,” he said.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
The large shop housed numerous tools and two restored antiques — a 1964 Pontiac Bonneville and a 1941 John Deere tractor. Matson guessed that he lost about $100,000 from the building and its contents, which are not insured.
Even though he retired about seven years ago, Matson said that he still used the space.
“I’d get up every morning, build a fire in the shop and just putter,” he said.
But the loss, Delores Matson, is more sentimental.
“There are years of memories,” she said. The father of 12 children — six boys and six girls — John Matson taught each of his sons how to use various tools in the shop.
Although the loss is upsetting, Delores Matson also quickly pointed out that the situation could have gone much worse.
Firefighters extinguished the flames before east winds sent them into the couple’s residence.
“There have been worse things to happen to people,” she said. “There weren’t any lives lost.”
Emily Gillespie: 360-735-4522; http://www.twitter.com/col_cops; firstname.lastname@example.org.