Archive for December, 2010

Lawyers, judge, discuss DNA test for triple homicide case

Friday, December 31st, 2010

Attorneys review an order allowing analysis of trace evidence, a spot so small the entire sample will be consumed. Counterclockwise beginning in front are Brad Meagher, James Dixon, Rick Cordes and Roger Hunko.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The state crime lab found a spot of what might be blood on clothing believed to belong to murder suspect Ryan J. McCarthy, but it’s so small that if they test it, there won’t be anything left for a defense expert to conduct its own analysis.


Ryan J. McCarthy

Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher filed a motion last week asking a judge to allow the DNA test, and allow the defense to have its own expert present when it’s done.

McCarthy, 29, and John Allen Booth Jr., 31, are former prison cell mates charged in the August 21 shootings inside a Salkum-Onalaska area home that left three people dead and one woman seriously wounded.

The pair are charged with murder and extortion in connection with the deaths of David J. West Sr. 52, his son David J. West Jr., 16, and Tony E. Williams, 50, of Randle, at the West’s home. Booth is also charged with the attempted murder of 51-year-old Denise Salts who lived there.

McCarthy’s wife, according to charging documents, told detectives that on Aug. 21, her husband showed up at her workplace with a bag containing the clothes he had been wearing when she picked him up in Centralia about 2:30 that morning. She said she threw it into a dumpster. It was recovered by law enforcement, according to charging documents.


John A. Booth Jr.

Meagher and lawyers for the defendants went before Judge Richard Brosey this week to discuss the proposed DNA test.

Six jail officers guarded the two defendants in the small fourth-floor courtroom in Chehalis during the proceedings on Wednesday afternoon.

The test will essentially consume all the trace evidence, Meagher told the judge.

McCarthy’s attorney, Rick Cordes, said he could bring in his own expert while it’s done. Brosey agreed with the arrangement.

Brosey also signed an order Wednesday allowing Booth’s fiancee Shawna Trent to get back her computer and an iPod seized by detectives.

Booth’s attorney, James Dixon, then asked the judge to lift a prohibition against any contact between Booth and Trent. She is listed as a witness in the case.

She is a longtime girlfriend of Booth, he told the judge. They consider themselves married, he said.

The couple underwent a religious marriage ceremony in June and had a date set for this month to do a civil ceremony.

Dixon noted a similar allowance was made for McCarthy and his wife, although she too is a witness.

Meagher opposed the request for visitation at the jail.

Brosey said he would allow telephone contact, as all phone calls from the jail are recorded. And he said he would allow visits, which are conducted through a video system in which inmates and their visitors are not ever in the same room.

The visits will have to be recorded and there can be no conversation about the case, the judge said.

A trial date has not yet been set for Booth, a former Onalaska resident.

Attorneys have a deadline at the end of March to file a “notice for special proceedings”. Defense attorneys are compiling a collection of information looking to show why the death penalty should not be sought for Booth.

McCarthy’s trial is scheduled for the week of April 18.

Both men have pleaded not guilty.

Read recent stories on the case:
News brief: Springtime trial set for one defendant in triple homicide” from Thursday Nov. 18, 2010

Attorneys ask for more time on decision about seeking death penalty” from Wednesday Oct. 20, 2010


John A. Booth Jr. next to his attorney in Lewis County Superior Court on Wednesday afternoon as participants wait for the judge to enter.


Ryan J. McCarthy, in the jury box, talks with his lawyer before proceedings begin on Wednesday.

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Friday, December 31st, 2010

Here’s what I’m hearing this morning: It’s been q-u-i-e-t out there.

Except, Riverside Fire Authority Capt. Casey McCarthy says the outgoing crew was called about 9:45 last night to a report a vehicle struck the median on southbound Interstate 5 at milepost 84 near the Lewis-Thurston county line and then went about 25 feet down an embankment.

It appears there were no more than minor injuries, McCarthy said.

Four of the six individuals who’ve checked in to the Lewis County Jail since yesterday afternoon appear to be simply serving time for past arrests. Looks like Lewis County sheriff’s deputies arrested one person for drugs this morning.

If anyone’s heard anything different, or got a news tip, you know where to reach me.

I may have to go out and snap a picture of a baby farm animal or something. Check back later.

Oh wait. In the meantime, here’s something I meant to share a while back.

Lewis County Fire District 5 invited news reporters a couple months ago to do a little hands-on learning about the work they do.

You can see below a bit of what I learned that day.


The outfits firefighters wear are very heavy. / Photo by Maleah Heldreth


The Jaws-of-Life are even heavier. (That's me too.) / Photo by Maleah Heldreth

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Thursday, December 30th, 2010


• Centralia police were called about 1:50 a.m. today to the 3200 block of Borst Avenue where they learned a woman was assaulted by her husband who reportedly struck her in the face and choked her. The 42-year-old suspect fled the scene before officers arrived, according to the Centralia Police Department.  The case is being referred to the Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office for a recommended charge of second-degree assault, according to police.

• A Centralia man was arrested yesterday after he went to the police department and recanted a previous report his wife had assaulted him. His wife had been arrested after his initial report in recent days, according to police. Marcus E. Prince, 38, was arrested yesterday for false reporting and booked into the Lewis County Jail, according to the Centralia Police Department.


• Chehalis police were called yesterday afternoon to a residence on Northwest St. Helens Avenue about the theft of a gold and diamond ring. The ring’s value is estimated at $4,000, according to the Chehalis Police Department.


• A 19-year-old Centralia woman was jailed last night after contact with a police officer about 6:15 p.m. at the 1300 block of Belmont Avenue in Centralia. Courtney C. Phelan was arrested for a violation related to the Department of Corrections and for possession of methamphetamine, according to to the Centralia Police Department.

• Two Centralia men were arrested after a traffic stop late yesterday afternoon at West Walnut and Hemlock streets in Centralia. Sean W. Thomas, 28, was booked for a previous incident involving deliver of methamphetamine and Joshua P. Wildman, 33, was booked for driving with a suspended license, according to police.


• A motorist was cited just after noon-time yesterday after what police described as a vehicle versus pedestrian collision with minor injuries at West Main and North Iron streets in Centralia.


• Centralia police were called just after 2 p.m. yesterday to the 300 block of Latona Street where an officer took a report of items taken from an unlocked vehicle.


• Chehalis police were contacted yesterday by an Onalaska man who said someone was using his identity. He found out someone had opened a bank account in his name when they ordered something and accidentally had it shipped to his address, according to police. They were minor transactions, as low as $1 and $2, according to detective Sgt. Rick McNamara.

• Centralia police took a report yesterday from the 1100 block of South Schueber Road of someone using a person’s credit card to make a purchase in Georgia.

• Police took a report yesterday afternoon from the 500 block of South Rock Street of fraudulent charges on a person’s account.


• A motorist reportedly distracted by two dogs in his vehicle struck a semi-truck and then his pickup truck rolled coming to rest on it top on Interstate 5 near Napavine yesterday evening. Aid and troopers were called about 6:50 p.m. to the scene in the southbound lanes near exit 72. The driver of the Ford F150, Arnel Tadas, 47, of University Place, was taken to Providence Centralia Hospital with cuts and scrapes, according to the Washington State Patrol. His vehicle was totaled. The 28-year-old driver of the 2006 Kenworth from California was reportedly uninjured. At least one of the dogs didn’t survive the wreck, according to responders.

Sworn in: Incoming county coroner takes oath of office

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

Gary Zandell, left, administers the oath of office to incoming Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod / Courtesy photo by Steve Carmick

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – Lewis County Coroner-elect Warren McLeod was sworn in yesterday by Lewis County Auditor Gary Zandell.

The Chehalis resident was out of town last week when recently elected county officials took their oath of office at the Lewis County Law and Justice Center.

McLeod, a community college instructor, will replace Coroner Terry Wilson who has served almost 30 years. McLeod took almost 55 percent of the votes while retired DEA agent Micheal Hurley got just over 45 percent in last month’s election.

McLeod worked at the corners office in Las Vegas, Nevada, for almost 10 years before moving to Chehalis in December 2008 when he took a job as a professor of forensics at South Puget Sound Community College in Olympia.

Cowlitz County man gets 10 years for his role in meth ring with ties to Toledo

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

A man federal authorities are calling an “enforcer” in a drug ring accused of distributing highly pure methamphetamine in Cowlitz and Lewis counties was sentenced today to 10 years in prison.

Michael J. Waddington, 24, of Silver Lake, was arrested in June. His co-defendants in the case include Toledo residents Erica Deann Lewis and Anthony Wayne Reisbeck, along with Randy Scott Chalupa of Longview.

The Cowlitz-Wahkiakum Narcotics Task Force and the Drug Enforcement Administration began investigating members of the group in 2009. Information revealed the four were selling pound quantities of meth in and around Kelso, according to the U.S. Attorneys Office.

“Waddington admitted one of his roles in the drug organization was to collect drug debts,” the office stated in a news release today.

In asking for a significant prison term, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Backhus noted for the court Waddington illegally possessed multiple firearms, including rifles, pistols and a sawed-off shotgun, according to the news release. He also has previous convictions for assault and then threatening a witness in the assault case, according to the news release.

Waddington pleaded guilty in October and was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, and being armed with a firearm in connection with a drug crime. Judge Robert J. Bryan imposed the sentence.

The other defendants are set to be sentenced early in 2011.

Read the June 9, 2010 news story “News Brief: Alleged meth ring defendants handed over to feds” here

News brief: Heat lamp for kittens possibly to blame for Salkum Saturday fire

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The cause of the blaze in Salkum on Christmas morning that destroyed a home and sent several people to the hospital is still unknown but the fire investigator said it’s possibly related to a heat lamp on the front porch keeping some kittens warm.


Maple Crest Drive, Salkum

“I’m not sure what started it yet, I’m still looking at it, but it started outside,” Fire Investigator Derrick Paul said on Tuesday.

Either three or four of the residents went to the hospital with smoke inhalation after the 7:30 a.m. fire on 100 block of Maple Crest Drive, as did a Lewis County Fire District 8 firefighter who injured his leg when he fell through the floor, according to responders.

The double-wide mobile home was a complete loss.

Bruce Davis lives there with his wife Deborah, their 37-year-old son and 17-year-old granddaughter, according to Paul.

A pair of overnight house guests and Deborah Davis fled through the front door, and the other three escaped from a back room through a window, according to Paul.

“Bruce had to break a window out and the three climbed out the window,” Paul said.

Neither District 8 Assistant Chief Don Taylor or Paul knew the fate of the kittens.

“I never did see ’em, they probably ran away,” Paul said.

The fire department contacted the Red Cross to assist the fire victims with a place to stay.

See Saturday’s news story and photographs here

Man found with pounds of drugs in Chehalis pleads to simple possession

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

CHEHALIS – The man charged with having pounds of methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin when he was captured following a high-speed chase in Chehalis a year ago pleaded guilty today in a compromise deal because the main witness against him is Robbie Russell.


Robert John Maddaus Jr.

Robert John Maddaus Jr., 41, was in Lewis County Superior Court this afternoon with his attorney Ken Johnson.

Senior Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher told the judge he reduced the charges to possession of each of three drugs.

“The intent element here, I was going to use Robbie Russell for that, and that just isn’t going to happen,” Meagher said.

After the two men were apprehended by Lewis County sheriff’s deputies in November 2009, detectives found in the car a backpack containing two and a half pounds of methamphetamine, nearly a half pound of cocaine and almost one-third pound of heroin, according to charging documents.

Maddaus – who is a Rochester resident, according to court documents – was initially charged with possession of each of the three drugs with intent to deliver, as well as unlawful possession of a firearm.


Robert Shawn Russell

The red Corvette belonged to Russell and it was Russell who was driving, according to Johnson. An argument could have been made at trial the drugs belonged to Russell, Johnson said.

Russell had been contacted by law enforcement and made arrangements to turn Maddaus over to them, Johnson said.

The attorney called the circumstances of that night “very peculiar”. Despite Russell’s agreement, he sped away when deputies tried to pull him over, he said.

“Back then, Russell was working with us,” Meagher said after today’s court hearing. But after that, he committed a bunch of crimes, he said.

Earlier this month, Russell was sent to prison with a six-year sentence.

“It’s not like we can count on Robbie Russell coming back and cooperating, things have changed,” Meagher said.

Judge James Lawler sentenced Maddaus today to one year and a day for each of the three counts. They will be served concurrently.

Lawler then signed an order transporting Maddaus back to Thurston County, where he is set for trial next week for first-degree murder in the case of a man found handcuffed and shot to death on an Olympia street in November of last year.

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010


• A pair of Centralia men were arrested yesterday in connection with a Thursday interrupted burglary in Toledo in which two semi-automatic pistols, a rifle and a 16-gauge shotgun were among the items stolen. Deputies called on Thursday to the residence on Poetsch Road were told two males fled in a small vehicle, according to the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office. A photo montage was created and two men were identified, Sheriff Steve Mansfield said this morning. Kodey L. Howard, 20, and Daniel C. Miller, 20, were arrested for first-degree burglary, according to Mansfield. Also missing after the break-in were several pieces of expensive jewelry, Mansfield said. The loss was estimated at more than $5,000.


• Centralia police took a report yesterday morning of a car stolen from the 1600 block of Windsor Avenue. Taken was a blue 1992 Honda Prelude. The two-door vehicle has a license plate of 027 ZJY.


• Centralia police took a report about 11 a.m. yesterday of a stolen vehicle recovered on the 100 block of West Main Street.


• A deputy was called about 2:30 a.m. today to Lakewood Drive near Mossyrock to a report a window and a glass sliding door had been shot out. Sheriff Steve Mansfield said it appeared it was done with marbles and some sort of slingshot.


• Centralia police arrested two people yesterday evening at a residence on the 1200 block of Eckerson Road. Officers were at the home around 5:30 p.m. looking for a wanted person, according to the Centralia Police Department. Christopher H. Quimby, 50, of Centralia, was arrested for obstruction and then released, according to police. Officers found Crystal P. Timbrook there and arrested the 30-year-old Centralia woman on an outstanding warrant. She was booked into the Lewis County Jail.


• Centralia police were called twice yesterday to reports of slashed tires on vehicles. The first was at the 1000 block of North Tower Avenue and the other was on the 600 block of H Street.

• Centralia police took reports of “gang-style” graffiti to two buildings yesterday. One was at the 200 block of South Tower Avenue and the other on the 500 block of North Gold Street.


• Fire investigator Ted McCarty said yesterday a kitchen fire east of Onalaska on Christmas night started after a burner was left on and nearby items ignited. Fire damage was minimal but there was smoke damage to the mobile home on the 100 block of Stub Road, according to McCarty. Residents had left around noon and after they returned she heard a commotion in the kitchen and spotted flames on the stovetop, McCarty said. The burner had been left on all day, he said. “Fortunately they were home when it took off, otherwise they wouldn’t have a home,” he said.

Read about aftermath of downtown Toledo fire …

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The (Longview) Daily News is reporting archivists from Olympia are expected to travel to Toledo to help with the restoration of items damaged in Saturday’s fire in two buildings that housed the Toledo Historical Society.

Responders came from eight fire departments on Christmas morning to battle the blaze that destroyed the former Masonic building that holds Cowlitz River Antiques and the attic to the adjacent Used Book Store.

Read news reporter Barbara LaBoe’s story here


Read “Downtown Toledo fire destroyed historical collections” from Sunday Dec. 26, 2010 here

Read about shotgun killed Tenino police chief’s wife …

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The Olympian is reporting Tenino Police Chief Sean Gallagher’s wife died of a shotgun blast to the head.

Lacey police responding about 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon to a possible discharge of a firearm at the 4500 block of Beckonridge Lane SE said they found a resident deceased.

Lacey Police Department Lt. Phil Comstock said Monday preliminary information suggested the possibility it was a self-inflicted gunshot.

Read news reporter Jeremy Pawloski’s story here

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010


• Centralia police were called about 4 p.m. yesterday to the 1500 block of Lum Road where a woman said her boyfriend rammed her car with his when she tried to drive away. Police reported this morning they are still looking for him.

• A 35-year-old Winlock man was arrested after a Sunday night incident in which his wife told police he attacked her and started choking her with a “head lock-type” hold. She reportedly fled their apartment and called 911 about 8:30 p.m.  Erik J. Vanasch was later taken into custody and yesterday he was charged with second-degree assault.

• A 44-year-old Toledo man was charged yesterday after a Christmas Eve incident in which a woman told deputies they were at his residence when he began yelling profanities, grabbed her and threw her on the bed. She was eventually able to get him off her and leave, according to charging documents, but as she tried to get in her vehicle, he allegedly tried to pull her out of her car by her leg. Steven R. Stanton was charged yesterday in Lewis County Superior Court with unlawful imprisonment and fourth-degree assault, domestic violence. He was released after court on a $5,000 signature bond.


• Chehalis police were called yesterday morning to a report somebody stole two flags from the flag pole at the Lewis County Mall. Missing from the Northeast Hampe Way location are an American flag and a POW flag, according to the Chehalis Police Department. Detective Sgt. Rick McNamara said a key is needed to lower the flags so it’s not clear how someone got them down.


• An officer was called about 8:25 a.m. yesterday to a burglary at a business on the 2000 block of Borst Avenue in Centralia. Police report its not known if anything was taken.

• Tools were reported stolen in a burglary to a shed on the 300 block of North Rock Street in Centralia, according to a report made to police about 10 o’clock yesterday morning.

• A vehicle found abandoned on the 900 block of Harrison Avenue yesterday was stolen from Yamhill County in Oregon and returned to its owner, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• Police took reports yesterday morning from two different locations in Centralia of stolen debit card numbers being used for purchases in Louisiana.


• Centralia police took a report yesterday morning of graffiti being spray painted onto a wall on the 900 block of West Main Street.


• A motorist was taken to Providence Centralia Hospital overnight after a wreck in which responders found a vehicle upside down in water between Interstate 5 at milepost 71 and Estep Road, according to a news release from Lewis County Fire District 5. Fire Lt. Laura Hanson reported the driver had self-extricated from the car and was hospitalized for evaluation after the 3 a.m. call. The 30-year-old female driver from Raymond was cited for driving under the influence, according to the Washington State Patrol.

Tenino police chief’s wife dead of apparent self-inflicted gunshot

Monday, December 27th, 2010

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

This was updated at 12:55 p.m.

Police investigating the death of Tenino Police Chief Sean Gallagher’s wife in their Lacey home yesterday say preliminary information indicates it was a possible self-inflicted gunshot.

Lacey Police Department Lt. Phil Comstock said an autopsy tomorrow will provide more information.

“We’re saying yes it is the chief and yes it is his wife,” Comstock said during the noon hour today.

A multi-jurisdictional team of investigators concluded its work at the home last night, according to Comstock.

The Olympian reports officers responding about 4 p.m. yesterday to a report of a gunshot found a resident of the home deceased. reports the chief was home at the time and was questioned.

Sharyn’s Sirens: Daily police and fire roundup

Monday, December 27th, 2010


• Chehalis police were called just before 8 o’clock on Saturday morning about the theft of Christmas gifts overnight from a vehicle parked outside on the 1400 block of Southwest Mills Avenue. At least some of the presents were toys, according to the Chehalis Police Department. The vehicle was unlocked, according to police.


• A car stolen out of Centralia was discovered Saturday afternoon parked behind a Chehalis home on the 700 block of South Cascade Avenue. It appeared someone was trying to hand paint the 1996 Honda Accord a different color, according to Chehalis police.


• Chehalis police were called about 3:40 a.m. on Sunday to a report a “really small” pig and a raccoon fighting outside off Washington Avenue. The arriving officer was unable to locate the animals, according to police.


• Detectives are investigating vandalism in Paradise Estates in Ashford totaling an estimated $10,000. The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reported this morning somebody broke the glass on 31 water meters sometime between 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. last Monday, according to Cmdr. Steve Aust.


• Centralia police arrested two men on Sunday afternoon for trespassing into a vacant house on the 400 block of South Iron Street. A neighbor reported seeing two guys crawling in a window, according to Officer Paul McCormick. Zachary J. Maurer, 21, of Centralia, and Ezekiel L. Johnson, 22, a homeless person, were arrested, according to police. Johnson was booked into the Lewis County Jail as he was found in possession of a handgun reported stolen out of Winlock, according to McCormick.


• A business on the 1000 block of Caveness Drive in Centralia was burglarized, according to a report made to police about 11:45 a.m. on Saturday. An unspecified amount of cash was taken from a drawer, according to the Centralia Police Department.

• Tools were stolen from a vacant house being renovated on the 200 block of Hemlock Street in Centralia, according to a report made to police Sunday morning.

• Centralia police were called Saturday to a garage burglary on the 1300 block of Crescent Avenue.

• Centralia police were called about 9:30 a.m. on Sunday to a vehicle prowl on the 300 block of Latona Street. Among the missing items were CDs, a cell phone and unspecified medication.


• Chehalis police were called about 4 p.m. on Thursday about somebody breaking out a window to Paradise Teriyaki on the 300 block of Northwest Chehalis Avenue.


• Police were called just before 8 a.m. on Saturday morning to a report of two ties being slashed on a vehicle at the Peppermill Empress Inn on the 1200 block of Alder Street in Centralia.


• Centralia police took a report about 2 o’clock this morning on the 1000 block of West Main Street where the side of a building was “tagged” with graffiti.


• Two cars were totaled in two separate rear-end collisions on Interstate 5  south of the U.S. Highway 12 interchange on Sunday afternoon. Troopers were called about 2 p.m. to milepost 57 near the Lewis-Cowlitz county line where a northbound 2008 Dodge Avenger ran into the back of a Jeep which was stopped for traffic, according to the Washington State Patrol. The Dodge was totaled but its 42-year-old driver from Federal Way was reportedly uninjured. A pair of Woodinville residents in the Jeep were taken to St. John Medical Center in Longview neck pain or stiffness, according to the investigating trooper. About an hour later, a 20-year-old motorist from Renton unable to stop for slowing traffic ran into the back of a northbound Toyota Camry near milepost 67, according to the state patrol. The Camry was towed and its driver, a Redmond resident, was taken by ambulance to Providence Centralia Hospital with a lower back injury, according to the state patrol. An infant in the Camry was reportedly uninjured. The 20-year-old’s 1999 Toyota Corolla was described as totaled.

Downtown Toledo fire destroyed historical collections

Sunday, December 26th, 2010
IMG_1119 Copying_2

Some of the fire departments begin wrapping hoses and putting gear away as the downtown firefight wound down yesterday

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

TOLEDO – Members of eight fire departments battled the blaze yesterday morning that threatened an entire city block in downtown Toledo, and in the end two buildings were destroyed and a handful of adjacent businesses suffered light smoke damage.

The upper levels of the former Masonic building that holds Cowlitz River Antiques was gutted and the attic to the adjacent Used Book Store to the north was burned. The ground floor of both sustained water damage.

“Not good,” Toledo Mayor Jerry Pratt said yesterday as he watched firefighters winding down the operation. “That whole upstairs is full of Toledo history.”

The proprietors of the two businesses were instrumental in creating the Toledo Historical Society some six years ago and they keep its records, collections of photographs and artifacts inside.

Marie and Robert Oberg own the larger building and she had a logging museum fixed up upstairs, former city council member Steve McNew said as he and his wife spent part of their Christmas morning observing the aftermath.

Anita Emel who operates the bookstore surveyed the scene earlier in the day and then left, according to the mayor.

“I talked to Anita this morning, she’s pretty distraught,” Pratt said. “In fact I held her while she cried for a little while.”

Emel and Oberg helped found the society in the spring of 2004, in part because the area which saw one of the earliest white settlements in Lewis County had no museum.

While crews couldn’t fight the fire from inside because of the risk of the roofs collapsing, after it was under control firefighters made a quick trip inside the bookstore and retrieved some important papers and photos belonging to the historical society, according to Lewis County Fire District 2 Chief Grant Wiltbank.

“Anita stood at the window and said ‘we need those boxes right there’,” Wiltbank said. “It was just in and out.”

Wiltbank said the fire appears to have started on the second floor and spread to the attics of both buildings. The cause is under investigation.

The two storefronts along with Timberland Bank face Second Street – which was renamed Ramsey Street on that block a few years back – just off of the main route through town, Cowlitz Street which is state Route 505.

The bank was spared, but a row of businesses on Cowlitz Street sustained some smoke damage, according to the fire chief.

The backside of the two buildings – where the worst of the fire was – sits just across a narrow alley from Toledo Hardware.

“Our big concern was the fire jumping and taking out the hardware store and the pharmacy,” Wiltbank said.

The call came at 4:30 a.m. and drew what Wiltbank estimated was at least 30 firefighters.

Responders came from Toledo, Winlock, Vader, Napavine, Centralia, Castle Rock, Toutle and Kelso-Longview – the equivalent of a three-alarm fire, according to the chief.

Wiltbank, a volunteer chief was on his way home from his job at the fire department in Gig Harbor. Assistant Chief Mike Dorothy was the incident commander. Mayor Pratt said he arrived after getting a phone call at 5 a.m.

“When I came down the hill, the street was blocked and the flames were shooting close to 40 feet high,” Pratt said.

The fire hoses weren’t making a lot of headway until the ladder truck from Centralia’s Riverside Fire Authority joined them, according to Pratt.

“Thank God for the Centralia fire department, they probably saved the block,” he said. “When they opened up with that thing, it really knocked it down.”

IMG_1106 Copying_2

Anita Emel's Used Book Store


Marie and Robert Oberg's Cowlitz River Antiques


Read yesterday morning’s breaking news of the fire as it burned and see more photos here

Five hospitalized following Christmas morning residential fire in Salkum

Saturday, December 25th, 2010

Firefighters this morning at the fire in Salkum. / Courtesy photo by Bob Jackson of Onalaska

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Four residents suffering from smoke inhalation and a responding firefighter who injured his leg were hospitalized after a fire broke out this morning in a Salkum home.

Some 25 firefighters from Salkum, Onalaska, Mossyrock and Lewis County Fire District 5 based in Napavine answered the 7:30 a.m. call to the residence in between U.S. Highway 12 and state Route 508.

“Don’t know what caused it, but it was a total loss, a double-wide trailer,” District 8 Assistant Chief Don Taylor said this afternoon.

Responders got the blaze under control about 11:30 a.m. and the scene was finally cleared about 2 p.m., he said.

A couple and two older teenage relatives who live there had a pair of out-of-town guests overnight, Taylor said.

He said one of the house guests was sleeping on the living room floor when she was awakened by what she thought was the sound of bacon cooking.

“She looked up and saw nobody was cooking and she could see flickering on the walls,” he said. “She opened a door – I don’t know if it was a back door or an inside door – and a ball of fire drove her back.”

Taylor said the older gentleman who lives there had severe smoke inhalation and a hand injury he thought he got trying to help the others out of the home.

A District 8 firefighter injured his leg when he fell through the floor during mop up, Taylor said.

The residence on 100 block of Maple Crest Drive is off a one-lane road with a narrower driveway so arriving fire trucks had to be stacked up along the road making fighting the fire more challenging, according to Taylor.

A car was destroyed by the fire, but a garage was spared, he said.

Taylor didn’t know all the details of how the occupants got out but said somebody had thrown a brick through a bedroom window and they were barefoot and in their night clothes at the back of the house when firefighters arrived.

“We had to bring them past the fire to get them to the ambulances,” he said. Two were carried and the others escorted, he said.

The fire department contacted the Red Cross to assist the fire victims with a place to stay.

The cause is under investigation.

Read this morning’s news item on the fire here


Firefighters this morning at the fire in Salkum. / Courtesy photo by Bob Jackson of Onalaska

Structure fire breaks out in Salkum

Saturday, December 25th, 2010

Firefighters this morning at the fire in Salkum. / Courtesy photo by Bob Jackson of Onalaska

This was updated at 3:48 p.m.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

Firefighters from Mossyrock joined Lewis County Fire District 8 this morning at a structure fire in the Salkum-Onalaska area.

Mossyrock Fire Chief Matt Hadaller said he was told it was a mobile home and three individuals were being taken to the hospital.

“I don’t know (exactly) what’s going on,” Hadaller said as he waited for his rig to be summoned closer to the scene about 9:25 a.m.

The fire was at the 100 block of Maple Crest Drive, in between U.S. Highway 12 and state Route 508.

Five people were hospitalized, including four residents who suffered smoke inhalation and a District 8 firefighter who injured his leg during mop up, Assistant Chief Don Taylor said.

The double-wide trailer was a total loss.

More to come.

Firefighters this morning at the fire in Salkum. / Courtesy photo by Bob Jackson of Onalaska

Downtown Toledo buildings burning

Saturday, December 25th, 2010
IMG_1105 Copying_2

Cowlitz River Antiques, far left, and the Used Book Store, center, sustained massive damage in this morning's fire in Toledo. Timberland Bank, right, was saved.

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

This was updated at 9:15 a.m.

A three-alarm fire is burning in downtown Toledo in two buildings south of Timberland Bank.

Firefighters are battling the blaze defensively at this point, Lewis County Fire District 2 Chief Grant Wiltbank said about 8:15 a.m.

It started sometime after 4 o’clock this morning, the chief said.

“It’s on the block where the bank is at and it appears to have started in the second or third floors of the adjacent properties to the south,” he said. “I’m not there.

Wiltbank spoke by telephone on his way from his job at the fire department in Gig Harbor.

Fire keeps breaking out on the upper floors, and there’s so much smoke they can’t see for a half block, he said.

Multiple agencies responded including a ladder truck from Centralia’s Riverside Fire Authority and from Castle Rock, he said.

Wiltbank said the bank appears to be safe and as he understand it, there is some smoke damage in a beauty shop, a chiropractor’s office and a lawyer’s office.

It’s near the intersection of Kellogg Way and Second Street.

“It’s a big fire, the biggest we’ve had in Toledo probably since I’ve been there,” Wiltbank said.

Crews can’t go into the buildings because of the imminent risk of roof collapse, he said.

State Route 505 is blocked off, according to Diane Wallace, secretary to Fire District 2.

“I’m watching from my office and there is a lot of very thick black smoke,” Wallace said just before 9 a.m. “The town is pretty much covered in smoke.”

Wallace has been with the district almost 30 years and said she couldn’t recall a fire of this size downtown ever. The building holds a book store and an antique store, she said.

Paramedic Kirk Johnston spent a couple of hours earlier at the Toledo fire station providing “rehab” for fire crews.

No injuries have been reported.

“Flames were coming out of the roof of the building,” Johnston said. “I could see flames as I was coming down the hill into Toledo.”

More to come


Note: If anyone got photographs this morning, they’d like to share, please email them to


Foam from the fire hoses lays on the street today in front of the antique store, which houses the Logging Museum upstairs. / Courtesy photo by Carrie Kann of Toledo


The back side of the antique store building - which used to be the Masonic Building - is where most of the fire damage shows. On the left, across the narrow alley is Toledo Hardware. / Courtesy photo by Carrie Kann of Toledo

Read about theft charges filed against one-time Chehalis police chief candidate …

Friday, December 24th, 2010

By Sharyn  L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter

The Olympian is publishing an item from The Associated Press saying now-former Montesano Police Chief Ray Sowers has been charged with theft following an investigation into credit card purchases made when he was chief.

Sowers was one of the four finalists for the chief position with the Chehalis Police Department in November of 2006.

Read the news item in The Olympian here.