By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
The house where the fire in Vader started is still standing, but is just a shell.
The former community center building to the north had to be torn apart with an excavator to extinguish its burning contents.
And the Masonic Hall to the south suffered only superficial damage on an exterior wall.
The cause of Sunday morning’s blaze is under investigation; he doesn’t know what started it, Cowlitz-Lewis Fire District 20 Chief Richard Underdahl said yesterday.
“The back part of the house was really where the intensity was,” Underdahl said. “It was collapsed.”
Firefighters called about 8:50 a.m. arrived to find the single story home on the 800 block of A Street fully involved, with flames coming out the roof and the walls, the chief said.
There was talk about explosions, but Underdahl said he never heard any as he battled the blaze beside his crews.
No occupants were located, but Lewis County Fire District 5 Chief Gregg Peterson who conducted incident command with District 20’s Assistant Chief Ruth Crear said he learned three people got out of the house, including a boy and also a man who went to the hospital with a laceration to his hand.
Peterson said he heard the injury was related to a window, and trying to put out the fire.
Some nearby residents were asked to evacuate the neighborhood as a precautionary measure because of the large amount of smoke, Underdahl said.
“It was bad,” he said. “The smoke was thick, and was really, really bad.”
Some 40 firefighters responded from five other departments to assist, with many on the scene until almost 5 p.m., according to Underdahl.
The chief said the radiant heat from the house fire ignited the contents of the adjacent metal-sided quonset hut style structure. Once a community center, and later in its life a youth center, the building is now owned by an individual who used it for storage, he said.
“They noticed that thing was smoking and realized there must be fire inside,” he said.
Firefighters began to attack it from both ends, but the intense heat forced them back out, and they fought it defensively, he said.
Among the items inside and something that may have contributed, he said he learned later, were as many as 60 five-gallon buckets of hydraulic oil.
An excavator was brought up from Castle Rock.
“We unfortunately had to pull the quonset hut apart,” Underdahl said. “It had to be completely torn apart.”
One firefighter, Assistant Chief Crear, ended up with some type of leg injury, but she stuck around and then went to Providence Centralia Hospital later, Underdahl said.
“We were able to save two little kittens,” he said.
The pair, quite possibly strays, came running out from the brush next to the building, according to Underdahl.
“We grabbed them, got them” he said. “They were just scared.”
For background, read “Fire burning in Vader” from Sunday November 9, 2014, here