May 9, 2015

Fierce Fire Sparks Scare at U.S. Adventist Academy

, communication director, Washington Conference

A nighttime fire engulfed a warehouse on the campus of an Adventist boarding school in the U.S. state of Washington, alarming students in dormitories as they waited 2 ½ hours for firefighters to bring the blaze under control.

No one was injured in the overnight inferno, which destroyed the industrial warehouse and damaged an adjacent warehouse on the edge of the campus of Auburn Adventist Academy near Seattle.

“We are grateful that everyone is safe and accounted for,” academy principal Tom Decker said Friday.

The cause of the fire is under investigation. Local television said nothing suspicious was suspected.

The fire broke out around 8:30 p.m. Thursday at a warehouse that the academy leases to multiple businesses, including an auto body shop, to generate money for students' education, Decker said.

Tenants from another warehouse first spotted the fire and alerted the auto shop employees to evacuate. They then called for help.

Firefighters inspecting the charred shell of the warehouse on Friday, May 8. (Heidi Baumgartner)

The fire was initially declared a two-alarm blaze, but firefighters called a third alarm when the flames spread to the nearby warehouse.

The fire was brought under control by 11 p.m., and firefighters worked on the remaining hot spots until about 1:30 a.m, the local firefighting authority said on Twitter. Multiple agencies responded to the fire, including three ladder trucks, 10 fire engines, and several command units.

“The firefighters were very conscientious in their work, and we appreciate their continued support after the fire was out,” Decker said. “We are saddened by the loss of work space for our industry partners and how this fire is affecting their business.”

The academy has several clusters of small warehouses in an industrial park. The fire was limited to two warehouses that are separate from facilities linked to the campus’ former Harris Pine Mill business.

Firefighters stayed on site Friday to monitor the scene as investigators continued their work. Some tenants were allowed to begin removing salvageable tools and other equipment. An engineer examined the buildings to see whether they posed any risks.

“It is still a dangerous place,” Decker said. “We’re making sure the area is a safe place. The fire department is helping us with the next steps for securing the area and keeping people and our tenants safe.”

While the academy retains insurance on its warehouses, the policy only partially extends to tenants, who are expected to hold their own insurance for their businesses.

Academy students announced Friday that they would hold a fundraiser next week to support the tenants and cover their uninsured losses.