Dryer possible source of Oyster House fire

Staff writerJuly 23, 2013 

The early Friday morning fire at the Oyster House may have started in a clothes dryer, an investigator with the Olympia Fire Department said Monday.

Olympia Fire Lt. Brian Schenk said the cause of the fire is still under investigation, but he said there are indications a clothes dryer in a storage area near the kitchen may have been the ignition source.

“We certainly can’t rule out the dryer,” he said.

A passer-by reported smoke coming from the Oyster House about 12:17 a.m. Friday. When fire crews forced their way through the front doors five minutes later, they reported heavy smoke and fire near the kitchen. Firefighters then cut a hole through the roof and found heavy fire underneath.

As conditions deteriorated, firefighters retreated from the building about 12:45 a.m. and started attacking the fire from the outside, Olympia Deputy Fire Chief Greg Wright said. The historic restaurant at 320 Fourth Ave. at the southern tip of Budd Inlet was destroyed.

Fire investigators won’t be able to closely examine the dryer or the kitchen until they get a crane into the area to remove the heavy debris there, Schenk said.

Dryer fires are not uncommon, Schenk said. They can sometimes ignite when an oily or dirty rag is not immediately removed from a hot dryer after a drying cycle is completed, he said. Dryer fires can also be caused by an electrical failure, Schenk added.

Schenk said the Oyster House’s insurer will likely hire a contractor to remove the heavy debris with a crane on Tuesday or Wednesday. Fire investigators then will be able to take a better look at the kitchen area and the dryer, he said.

The Oyster House was fully insured, he said.

The Oyster House’s owner, Tom Barrett, has vowed to rebuild. On Monday, Barrett’s wife, Leticia Barrett, said that Olympia Mayor Stephen Buxbaum and City Manager Steve Hall visited the couple on Saturday and told them the city would do everything in its power to help them rebuild on the site as quickly as possible.

Barrett added that they believe they can begin rebuilding soon, but they need more information from the insurance adjuster.

Olympia City Manager Steve Hall confirmed Monday that the city will do everything it can to help the Barretts rebuild.

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