A fire broke out late Saturday night at a home in the 22600 block of Deppman Road SW and caused extensive damage before firefighting crews were able to extinguish the flames.
Vashon Island Fire & Rescue (VIFR) Assistant Chief Bob Larsen said his crew was dispatched to a “minimal fire” just before 11 p.m., which they upgraded to a full residential fire when they arrived.
Initially, the firefighters took a defensive strategy, VIFR Chief Charlie Krimmert said, and fought the fire from outside the home.
“We were working really aggressively to save the house,” he added.
The fire began in the bathroom in the basement of the home, Larsen noted, and then spread vertically through the house to the main level, burning the hallway and stairway, as well as a bedroom and bathroom on the main level. The remainder of the house was also heavily damaged from heat and smoke.
In all, 11 members of the department responded, seven of whom were firefighters. While Krimmert said that the number of personnel at the fire did not affect the outcome, both he and Larsen stressed they were understaffed with professional firefighters and volunteers.
The department lost some of its firefighters last month, when Vashon began to be served by South King County paramedics, who are not firefighters, unlike Vashon’s former paramedics, who were. The department has hired two new firefighters, but they are not slated to work shifts until this summer.
In this interim period, Krimmert said, there are four career firefighter shifts, and three of them are staffed with three firefighters. One of the shifts — the crew working Saturday night — has just two firefighters. Additionally, he said, no volunteer firefighters had signed up for a shift that night, nor did any support personnel, who drive the water tenders.
Only two water tenders were on the scene that night, and Larsen said that although they did not run out of water, he would have preferred for another tender to have been there, but he had no one to drive it.
VIFR officials have spoken repeatedly about the challenges of recruiting and retaining volunteers, particularly those who live on the island. Now, Larsen said, only four of their volunteer firefighters live on Vashon, an all-time low.
King County records show the Deppman Road home is owned by Jeremy and Kirsten Hammond.
Larsen said Jeremy Hammond was home alone at the time the fire started, and the rest of the family was out of town.
The home is not currently habitable, Larsen said. He added that he asked Jeremy Hammond if he needed Red Cross assistance, but Hammond declined it, saying he had a place to stay.
The fire was determined to be accidental, but the King County fire investigators have not yet released the cause.