BAKER FLATS — A residence and three other buildings were destroyed and Highway 2/97 was closed for about 40 minutes Wednesday by an explosive fire that spiraled heavy black smoke to the afternoon sky and across the highway.
“It’s amazing how fast it went up. The house was gone in a matter of minutes,” said Freddy Hernandez of Wenatchee. Hernandez said he was on his way home from work at NC Machinery when he saw people trying to put out a grass fire behind the house.
“I came down and started stomping out small fires and helping some others open some sprinklers so the fire wouldn’t spread. Then I saw those gas tanks and I thought I better get out of there,” Hernandez said. “The whole thing went up like a matchbook.”
The house was in a grove of tall trees between First Fruits Produce Market and B&B Fruit Stand.
Karen Rogers, co-owner of First Fruits, said she was unloading fruit from a truck when she looked up and saw the flames reaching up through heavy black smoke.
“There were flames everywhere. I called 911 and told them I thought the house was already gone,” Rogers said.
The house is owned by Rick and Anita Reid. Rick Reid, who arrived at the scene after the fire started, said the fire destroyed two houses, two garages and several vehicles including some valuable classic cars.
A young black Labrador retriever also died in the fire.
Reid, a truck driver, said he saw the fire blow up while his truck was being loaded at Tree Top across the Columbia River.
He said he yelled out “My house is on fire!” and rushed to the scene.
He said he had just sold an old truck and the new owner was trying to start it when it caught fire behind his house, catching the grass on fire next to it.
He said he had lived at the house his entire life. The house is insured.
No one was injured in the fire, although one person was examined for heat exhaustion, said Dave Baker, Douglas County District 2 assistant fire chief. The fire was called in at 3:51 p.m. Washington State Department of Transportation closed Highway 2/97 for about 30 minutes before reopening it to one-lane traffic at 4:45 p.m..
Firefighters from Douglas County District 2, Chelan County District 1, Wenatchee, Orondo and Monitor were called to the fire.
“It’s very dry out there,” Baker said. “It could have been much worse if the wind had come up.”
Rick Steigmeyer: 664-7151