Someone smoking near home medical oxygen tanks Thursday started a fire that destroyed one house, badly damaged another and sent two people to the hospital, Tacoma firefighters said.
The garage of a third house was damaged, and a recreational vehicle was destroyed in the fire near East G Street and McKinley Avenue.
Two chihuahuas that lived in the house where the fire began were missing. It was not clear whether they had been inside at the time of the fire, and the structure was not safe to search after the blaze was out, Tacoma Fire spokesman Joe Meinecke said.
A third chihuahua, Shiloh, escaped and was being cared for by neighbors, he said.
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Meinecke declined to describe the extent of the injuries suffered by the two people taken to the hospital. KOMO News reported one of them was in critical condition.
Damages were estimated at $350,000, Meinecke said.
“The house of origin would be considered a total loss, with heavy damage to the second house,” he said. “I would say the RV is a total loss as well.”
The fire broke out about 8:30 a.m. in the home of an elderly woman known to be on oxygen, neighbors said. It quickly spread to the house next door, a neighbor’s garage on the other side and a Winnebago RV parked nearby, Meinecke said.
Neighbors said a man who shares the house with the elderly woman got her outside then went back in to try to rescue their dogs and was hurt in the process. Meinecke confirmed that basic account but declined to provide specifics.
Black smoke billowed over the scene, distracting drivers on Interstate 5 near the Tacoma Dome.
Lynnette Scheidt, who lives in the neighborhood, reported hearing an explosion followed by two more muffled blasts. Scheidt speculated the sounds were caused by oxygen tanks rupturing inside.
Meinecke said firefighters found two people outside the house. They were taken by ambulance to a local hospital, he said.
Firefighters quickly determined the house in the middle most likely was going to be a total loss, so they worked to save the other house and garage, Meinecke said.
Noah Baskett’s wife and infant escaped unhurt from the house next door, which suffered damage to its roof and attic.
Baskett said he was at work when the fire broke out and returned home to see his neighbor’s house engulfed in flames. He described them as “really wonderful neighbors.”
Asked about his own house, Baskett said, “We’ll see.”
“We’ve got lots of friends,” he said. “Tacoma’s a great place to have a good network of people to support us, so we’re going to be OK.”