Hoquiam house fire leaves family of 8 homeless

A fire that started Tuesday morning, May 10, in Hoquiam leaves a family of eight wondering what to do now.

Sarah Gitchel, who spoke for her family from the sidewalk across the street, watched as Hoquiam Fire Department firefighters fought the flames that roared and opaque smoke that billowed on the outside of her family’s home in the 900 block of 5th Street.

Along with the family members, lay a few possessions, which were presumably saved during the family’s evacuation from the house with a “Seahawks” sign by the front door and what looked like a “Hawk Eyes” design above the front door that greets friends and neighbors.

According to Hoquiam Police Department Sgt. Jeff Salstrom, when HPD and HFD units showed up there was heavy smoke and flames coming from the back of the single-family home.

“A propane tank, stored behind the residence was also venting, creating an additional hazard,” said Salstrom in a statement. “Officers determined all the occupants were out of the residence.”

Salstrom said how the fire extended into the home’s attic.

“Due to the extension of the fire into the kitchen and attic areas, it proved stubborn and took approximately 20 minutes to knock down,” Salstrom said.

While the cause of the fire is under investigation, officials believe the fire started from an extension cord running from the residence to a motorhome parked in the driveway, Salstrom’s statement read.

Minutes before first responders arrived, Gitchel said she had gotten her family out of the fire, which she saw after what may have been a malfunctioning light caused her to investigate.

“I woke up this morning and I was in the bathroom,” Gitchel said. “Then the light started blinking. Then after that, the light went completely out in the bathroom. Then I went out and I thought it was weird because the TV was still on.”

Then Gitchel looked outside and saw the fire, which was big.

“I looked out back and there were just flames and smoke,” she said. “Then I just ran into the house to get everybody out.”

Gitchel said she also heard the fire make a popping sound.

In addition to the four adults and four young children who were inside the house, the family also has two cats. Gitchel said she thinks they made it.

“The firefighters said they saw one of them run over this way, so we think (they survived,)” said Gitchel, as she pointed to the tall grass that lay by the railroad tracks near the home where they have lived since 2005. “We’re not completely sure.”

The young children, standing alongside the elder family members, looked like they were doing OK. One of the children, Gitchel’s nephew, was running along the sidewalk.

Gitchel seemed satisfied by how quick HFD, and HPD, responded to the fire. Aberdeen Fire Department firefighters also responded. Aberdeen Code Enforcement was also on-scene.

“They started pulling up a few minutes after we got out,” Gitchel said. “I was still on the phone with 911. I came out, then the cops pulled up, and all of this started pulling up. It was fast.”

A couple hours after discovering the house was on fire, Gitchel said she was still in shock.

“They were all sleeping, I had to wake them all up,” she said. “I ran through the house and woke them all up. My dad was awake, but he had been outside for a minute, and then came back in and helped get everybody out.”

As for what to do now, Gitchel said she’s still figuring out what are the family’s next steps.

“The (American) Red Cross has contacted us, and we’re just gonna go from there,” Gitchel said.

While the good news is there were no injuries, the family will need to find a new place to live.

“There was extensive damage to the house and it is unlivable,” Salstrom’s statement read.