Colfax firefighters respond to house fire

DAN DOUCET, Evergreen opinion editor

A large grey smoke plume could be seen from miles away as Colfax firefighters responded to a house fire Sunday afternoon.

The house on S East Street in Colfax, contained six apartments and nine occupants, Colfax Assistant Fire Chief Craig Corbeill said.

Corbeill said all residents were safely evacuated and are now staying at friends’ houses. He said four different fire departments were called in for backup, including Steptoe, Colfax, Pullman and Albion.

Firefighter first responders Michael Chapman and Randy Miller of the Colfax fire department first received a call at 12:27 p.m. and were the first to arrive on the scene.

Chapman said when he first arrived there was heavy smoke coming out of the back left corner of the house. The first responders were told there were occupants inside the building, he said, but they quickly worked to evacuate them.

The top and the main floors were clear at first, so the fire fighters focused on containing the fire to the basement, where Chapman said the fire appeared to have originated from.

Chapman said he tried to use a technique known as steam conversion, consisting of spraying water into the air to create steam followed by closing the basement door in order to try to cool the temperature of the room.

“I was hoping that we could kind of keep it at bay for a while,” Chapman said.

Unlike newer houses, this house had a much older “balloon frame,” Chapman said, meaning all three stories of the house shared one single outside wall and lacked fire breaks. He said that because of this the fire was able to spread into the attic.

Chapman said multiple crews were sent into the house but they were not able to keep it from spreading into the attic.

Colfax Fire Chief Steven Thime said the fire fighters completed primary and secondary searches of the house and found no other occupants.

He said the fire fighters at first tried attacking the fire from the basement, but then focused on hosing the house down from the outside.

The majority of the firefighters were sent home at 10 p.m. Sunday. The fire was finally extinguished by 10 a.m. Monday, and the property was handed back over to the owners at 2 p.m. Monday.

The cause of the fire has not yet been determined.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated.