Five Hoquiam residents are homeless and a house was destroyed Thursday after a kitchen fire in the building burned out of control, officals said.
The fire started at about 3 p.m. in a two-level house that had been converted to three apartments on the 700 block of First Street. One of the residents, Joy Skinner, 48, said her son Kristopher had left cooking oil heating unattended on their stove when it burst into flames.
“He turned it on to heat it up and forgot,” Skinner said. “He came out of his room and saw the flames and started screaming.”
Capt. Matt Miller from the Hoquiam Fire Department said they received an emergency call at 3:01. Skinner and her two sons, who lived at the apartment, told the other residents in the building that there was a fire. One of the building’s six residents, Rebecca Hansen, 37, was at home. The other resident, Robert Langer, 65, was at work when the fire started. A girlfriend of Kristopher Hewett who lived in Skinner’s apartment was not at home.
The house quickly became engulfed in flames, firefighters at the scene said. Hoquiam firefighters arriving at the scene were able to find out that no one was in the home. After seeing the fire and how far it had progressed inside the building, firefighters decided to take a “defensive” approach to contain the fire to the structure where it is burning, and concentrate on saving the homes and property close-by, said Paul Dean, interim chief of the Hoquiam Fire Department.
The fire took roughly 30 minutes to contain, but a few more hours to completely extinguish. Smoke could be seen rising into the air for several hundred feet and settling over Hoquiam and Aberdeen. Multiple units responded to fight the fire, including crews from the Aberdeen Fire Department, the Cosmopolis Volunteer Fire Department and a unit from Fire District 6.
The house was a total loss. The residents escaped with just the clothes on their backs. Particularly painful to those who lived at the house was the loss of their pet cats. Out of the 12 cats that lived in the building, only three survived. One cat, “Boomer,” managed to hobble his way to a door close to where firefighters were concentrating their efforts to knock down the flames. He was covered with soot, soaked and gasping for air. A firefighter spotted the cat, pulled him out of the doorway and brought him to the street were a medic administered oxygen.
“I’m glad to see he’s alive,” said the owner, Kristopher Hewett. “There are a lot more in there. I hope they are still alive.”
Robecca Hansen lost her kitten “Bert” in the fire, but got out alive. Langer came home to find out everything he owned was gone and his three cats were dead. He said the pets were his family.
“I loved those cats. I loved them very much. I came home to them everyday,” Langer said. “Two of them were rescue cats, but it didn’t do them any good.”