A car fire and a brush fire in two days

A Sungard employee snapped this cell phone photo after evacuating the Sungard building, next to the engulfed pickup. - Alicia LaJoie/courtesy photo
A Sungard employee snapped this cell phone photo after evacuating the Sungard building, next to the engulfed pickup.
— image credit: Alicia LaJoie/courtesy photo

With the hottest months of the year upon us, Vashon experienced two fires last week, and Islanders are urged to use common sense this Friday around fire and fireworks.

Last Wednesday at 8:22 a.m., Vashon Island Fire & Rescue was dispatched to a vehicle fire on 100th Avenue S.W., just north of Washington Mutual Bank.

A light blue, mid-1990s Ford pickup truck had caught fire, likely due to an electrical malfunction, and soon the entire cab of the truck was engulfed. Flames shot up 20 feet in the air.

Employees evacuated the adjacent A-frame cedar Sungard office building. The truck was parked 10 feet from the building.

“It was a ripsnorter,” said Sungard employee Tom Hughes, who was working at the time of the fire. “The whole thing was in flames — we were concerned it would catch the building on fire as well.”

Fire trucks arrived in less than three minutes, said Mike Kirk, acting fire chief.

“Against the cedar siding of the building, it wouldn’t have taken too long to get that building to catch,” he said, but the fire was extinguished before that could happen. “If you don’t catch (car fires) right away, it’s very difficult to get them under control.”

He said he and other fire department employees noticed heavy black smoke and at first thought a structure was on fire.

“Heavy black smoke is a sign that buildings, petroleum, plastics are burning,” Kirk said. “Heavy black smoke is an indication that something shouldn’t be burning. If people see that, that’s a time to call ... We don’t mind checking those.”

He said although the truck was a total loss — unfortunate for its owner, who had been working on a nearby building — it was fortunate the fire occurred just a block from the fire station.

Kirk added that a brush fire burned “vigorously” on Westside Highway Friday. The high temperature contributed to the fire, which ignited a many-years-old brush dumping pile on a steep hill in the vicinity of Olympic Instruments, Inc.

Firefighters spent 3,000 gallons of water and nearly two hours Friday night, from 7:15 p.m. on, battling the fire where flames “jumped 30 feet high,” Kirk said.

The fire was “right under some power lines,” though they weren’t impaired, he said.

“With the dryness that comes in summer, that could have been a big fire — especially if the fire knocked out those big power lines,” Kirk said. “Next, get ready for the Fourth of July.”

— Amelia Heagerty

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