An elderly couple in Grays Harbor City lost all but a few armloads of mementos Tuesday when a fire broke out in their house and quickly gutted the structure.
The fire happened on the 100 block of Valley Road. Just before 5:40 p.m. the resident of the home, Jean Hammell, discovered the fire in a linen closet, her daughter Gina Maynard relayed.
“My mom heard a noise in the linen closet, opened it up and flames shot out,” she said. Maynard tried to call 911 from the house phone, but there was a problem.
“I called 911 from the house phone and the house phone died,” Maynard said. “So I called 911 from my cell.”
Hammell, who is in her 70s, along with her daughter rushed to get her husband, Ron Hammell, also in his 70s, out of the house. Hammell suffers from a long-term illness that limits his mobility and can leave him disorientated. As they got Hammell out of the house, Maynard was able to grab a family heirloom cuckoo clock. Maynard said her father kept trying to get back into the house and with much difficulty, she keep him out. Firefighters from Fire Districts 6, 16 and 7 responded to the fire, along with the Hoquiam Fire Department. The response time was minimal, said Fire Capt. Matt Loman, scene commander from Fire District 6.
“We already had two units out on an aid call when we got toned out,” he said.
When firefighters arrived, flames were shooting 20 feet into the sky and smoke was pouring out the eaves of the ranch style home. The flames had already exposed much of the roof of the structure.
Fire fighters quickly had the fire under control, but spent hours picking through the gutted structure for hot spots and trying to extinguish difficult-to-reach flames in the attic.
Loman said the house is probably a total loss. The family had lived in the home for at least 30 years. The cause of the fire is still undetermined, but family members said they think it had been burning in the attic for some time before it was discovered.
Throughout the evening, family members, with help of the fire department, removed photo albums, home videos and other family heirlooms. No one was injured fighting the fire. The Hammell couple will stay with family friends in Olympia while they try to figure things out, Maynard said.