Fire destroys DNR maintenance building in Forks


FORKS — A 7,500-square-foot state Department of Natural Resources building in Forks was left in ruins Wednesday after a towering fire engulfed the structure in the predawn hours.

Clallam County Fire District No. 1 crews received a report of a fire at 411 Tillicum Lane at about 12:19 a.m. and arrived to find the maintenance building and mechanics shop partly in flames, Fire District No. 1 Chief Bill Paul said.

No injuries were reported, Paul said, adding that the building was unoccupied at the time.

The structure was destroyed, he said.

Dave Cole, the DNR public information officer assigned to the fire, said Wednesday that only the four walls and half the roof remained.

“Basically, it’s just a gutted shell,” Cole said.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, the fire chief said.

Three Fire District No. 1 crews and Clallam County Fire District

No. 6 Chief Jeff Baysinger fought the blaze for about four hours, Paul said.

Firefighters remained on the scene Wednesday tamping down flare-ups.

DNR staff were on scene by Wednesday afternoon assessing monetary losses to the building and the DNR equipment inside, Cole said.

DNR Director of Communications Bryan Flint said a firetruck used to fight wildfires was heavily damaged and three pickup trucks destroyed.

In addition to a maintenance and mechanics shop, the building also housed a shipment receiving area and information technology office, Flint said.

The destroyed building was the smaller of two on the DNR Olympic Region campus, Flint said, which was completely closed Wednesday to allow firetrucks and crews to easily access the property.

He said the campus was expected to be reopened today and that the larger of the two DNR buildings on the campus was not damaged.

Five DNR employees regularly worked in the destroyed building, which was built in 1958, Flint said.

It was the fourth blaze in Forks since Oct. 29, when the historic Odd Fellows hall and former Dazzled by Twilight store were destroyed. Then, on Dec. 19, several house fires were reported. The body of local resident Mike Schultze was found in one of them.

Flint said the DNR-owned, wildfire-fighting firetruck was damaged when the building’s roof collapsed on it.

However, some pieces of the firetruck, which resembles a flatbed truck equipped with a large water tank, potentially could be salvaged, Flint added.

In addition to the three pickup trucks, Flint said, a great deal of mechanic’s equipment was lost as well as tools, such as shovels, chain saws and pickaxes, used to fight wildfires.

“There was a lot of equipment in there,” he said.

The building’s destruction also means the loss of an information technology office, the associated office computer and other supplies, and at least one computer server, Flint said.

DNR staff also were expecting a shipment of new computers to arrive at the office, Flint said, though the computers had not yet arrived as of Wednesday.

“So (the computers) were spared,” Flint said.

“We were fortunate that they had not yet been delivered.”

Flint said he did not expect the damaged firetruck and lost firefighting equipment to severely impact the DNR’s ability to fight wildfires on the North Olympic Peninsula, as the necessary repairs to the damaged firetruck — or a completely new rig — will be secured before wildfire danger peaks this summer.

“We’ll be able to replace that equipment before the summer fire season,” Flint said.

DNR staff were at the building to help organize the scene shortly after firefighters began battling the blaze early Wednesday morning.

No DNR firefighters were involved, since they specialize in fighting wildfires.

“Our staff are not structural firefighters,” Flint said.