Fire destroys Purdy warehouse

Traffic backed up halfway across the Wauna sandspit when fire vehicles descended on Purdy to fight the Western Oyster warehouse fire on April 12.

Theron Bailey, in an adjacent building, noticed smoke about 12:50 p.m. His sister, Barbara Hawks, called 9-1-1.

A metro drill in Gig Harbor was just completed when the call came through, said Fire District 5 Public Information Officer Penny Hulse. The assembled rigs from Puyallup, Lakewood, University Place, Central Pierce County and Gig Harbor all responded, with Mark Metsker, acting battalion chief, of Gig Harbor’s FD-5, as commander.

No hydrant was accessible, and firemen are reluctant to stick their intakes into salt water, so tenders with water and hoses were sent from the Fire District 16 and Kitsap No. 7 district. They refilled from Peninsula High School hydrants.

The 40-by-60 foot building, built about 1930 and recently used for storage, was destroyed. Jerry Yamashita said his dad owned it before him, and it had been in the family since 1952. They hadn’t processed oysters there for quite awhile.

Hulse said the cause of the fire was not determined. Yamashita noted the building was uninsured, and irreplaceable. Bob Skaggs, Pierce County Fire Marshal, estimated the loss at $80,000.

Vaughn Community Church catches fire

Palm Sunday services at the Vaughn Community Church began Holy Week with praises and a baptism. Before the day was over, the church was no longer usable until and unless extensive repairs are made.

Chuck Odegaard, Pastor Emeritus, arrived at 5:40 p.m. to lead his ongoing class of Interns in Bible study. Smoke was coming out of the vents. At the door, he heard the alarms inside, and called 9-1-1.

“This fire department is superb,” said Odegaard. “They didn’t have a wasted step.”

Rigs with hoses were there within minutes, and firemen wearing oxygen masks went to work inside. Fire Chief Tom Lique had 15-17 firemen at the site, with three engines, two tenders, and two ambulances, as well as other equipment for backup.

“We’ve lost our building for a long time,” said Odegaard. The exterior appears undamaged.

Bob Skaggs, fire marshal from Tacoma, determined the cause to be the baptismal heating element, which had not been turned off after the morning baptism. However, due to lack of oxygen, the fire was contained in the area around the baptistery. The whole interior received smoke damage.

Cracked windows, melted seat covers, charred walls and twisted remains of drums show the amount of destruction in the immediate vicinity.

Damage was estimated at “half a million,” said Odegaard, but teams of members were inventorying the specific losses the week following the fire.

A meeting was held two days after the fire, and the decision made to wait for six weeks to make any final decisions on what the congregation will do next. Meanwhile, temporary quarters for the church are in several places. Sunday services will be held at 10 a.m. at Vaughn Elementary School. Offices are in both the Red Barn where Community in Schools (CIS) uses space, and in Dale and Judy Harrison’s private residence. Pastor Tim Stobbe’s phone number is 884-2269.

Stobbe wants to thank the organizations and individuals who have offered assistance in their time of need, including the Key Peninsula Civic Center, Key Peninsula Lutheran Church, Lakebay Community Church, Key Peninsula Community House, and CIS.

The church, built in 1898 on the shores of Vaughn Bay, has been a Vaughn landmark as the community expanded.

In 1939, Josephine Welsh wrote “The Chapel By The Sea” about the early history of the church. Episcopalians, Presbyterians and Congregationalists each called the church home prior to a reorganization as a community church in 1949. Extensive remodeling was done to house a growing congregation in later years.

The current congregation will have to adapt to unusual circumstances for awhile, as decisions are made regarding their future and this beloved community landmark.

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