No cause found for DNR fire in Forks

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

FORKS — The cause has been ruled “undetermined” for a Jan. 2 fire that gutted a 7,400-square-foot building at the Department of Natural Resources’ Olympic Region complex at 411 Tillicum Lane, District No. 1 Fire Chief Bill Paul said.

“We were unable to find the cause of the fire,” Paul said this week.

“We dug down to the concrete to find a cause.”

Demolition is expected to begin next week, DNR spokesman Bryan Flint said.

There was “no indication” the blaze at the 70-employee, 20-acre complex was deliberately set, Paul added.

Its point of origin was inside the two-story building, Paul said.

“The building was absolutely, totally secured,” he added.

The blaze was the fourth fire that burned structures in the Forks area in 65 days stretching from Oct. 29, when the historic former Odd Fellows hall and the adjacent former Dazzled by Twilight souvenir store downtown were destroyed.

City officials this week were still awaiting a report from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, but District No. 1 officials have said the ATF has determined the Oct. 29 fire was electrical in origin.

One of two Dec. 19 blazes killed a man authorities believe was 54-year-old Forks resident Mike Walter Schulze at his 853 Palmer Road manufactured home.

Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict said Wednesday an autopsy determined that the man died of smoke inhalation. He expected that DNA tests would confirm the person was Schulze.

The other Dec. 19 fire consumed an unoccupied mobile home on Richwine Road about 4 miles west of Three Rivers Resort.

Flint said none of the four fires was suspicious.

The DNR campus blaze Jan. 2 was reported at 12:19 a.m.

The structure contained a warehouse, shop, six offices along with a fire engine and three pickup trucks that also were destroyed.

There were “a lot” of accelerants such as gasoline in the building, Paul said.

“All the rags that would have been spontaneously combustible were stored in a different room,” he added.

DNR received 14 bids by the deadline of noon Wednesday to demolish the structure, Flint said.

“The second floor is completely gone,” he said.

Demolition is budgeted for $6,000, Flint said.

The building and its contents were insured for $2.5 million, he said.

“We are obviously going to need the facility at that location, so we are going to rebuild,” Flint said.

At least 20 District No. 1 and Quileute District No. 6 firefighters responded to the fire, Paul said.

The facility’s information and technology room was left intact but was damaged by heat and water.

“Everything else was totalled,” Paul said.

DNR staff members stationed at the complex cover an area that includes Clallam and Jefferson counties and stretches from Aberdeen in Grays Harbor County to near the Mason County line.



Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at paul.gottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: January 17. 2013 5:48PM
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