Fanned by gusty winds, a two-alarm fire caused havoc in Vancouver’s Rose Village neighborhood Thursday evening.
The fire was reported at 5:57 p.m. at 3100 Z St., near St. Johns Boulevard, and burned out of control for approximately 40 minutes.
A 1950s-built small ranch home, two outbuildings, a car, and some grass, brush and trees were destroyed.
No one was apparently home when the fire broke out. Vancouver Fire Department spokesman Darrin Deming said the alarm was sounded by a fire crew that happened to be in the area on a medical call and spotted a large column of black smoke.
They arrived at the home and began attacking the fire, but it spread swiftly through the heavy grass and brush. Firebrands spread the fire to a neighbor’s yard and across an alley to a field behind the Sirrah Court Apartments, 3005 N.E. St. Johns Road. One traveled about a block away, scorching a corner of yard.
A crew approaching from an alley off East 30th Street met scorching trees and a wall of thick smoke.
“They said when they came down here, they couldn’t even see anything, it was just black smoke and orange flame,” Deming said. “He didn’t even know there was a house back there.”
Windy conditions and the state of the home, which was packed with the residents’ belongings, made for challenging firefighting and prevented crews from entering the structure.
“Once we know we’re going defensive, it really becomes about the surrounding structures,” he said.
The fire scorched a neighboring house’s backyard, and blistered paint and cracked windows on the closer side.
“This is the time of year where it starts getting warmer, things start getting drier and these things become dangerous, especially if you’ve got wind involved,” he said.
Surrounding homes and the apartments were evacuated while firefighters worked. A second alarm was called, bringing most of the on-duty Vancouver Fire Department to the scene. Rural fire districts provided backup coverage. About 40 firefighters total responded, Deming said.
Power lines were down in the area due to the flames.
“I was literally about to get to my front door and I smelled smoke,” said Matthew Young, 29, who lives in the Sirrah Court Apartments.
He went to check his stove, and when he looked up, out the kitchen window and past the alley, he saw the house burning.
He called 911 and started pounding on neighbors’ doors.
Javier Villegas, 44, was just parking his tow truck at a nearby lot when he saw flames licking through the trees.
He described a scene of neighbors running around, warning each other and trying to get away. One man took a garden hose to fire creeping through his yard.
A crowd estimated at 200 people gathered to watch, and police responded to cordon off a roughly two-block radius and manage traffic.
One person reported breathing problems and was treated for smoke inhalation, Deming said.
The city fire marshal will investigate the cause of the fire.