Damage from recent fires in county tops $4 million

MONROE — The fire took Candice Tarbert’s three cats and everything she owned.

She’s lucky to have escaped alive from the house in Monroe, where she rented a room. A week later she’s staying with some acquaintances and trying to rebuild her life. She’s starting from nothing, getting new copies of her ID card, birth certificate and federal tax refund check.

“Literally, clothes on my back, that’s what I came out with,” Tarbert said. “You hear that expression all the time. No kidding, but that’s what it was.”

It wasn’t clear whether fireworks caused the devastating fire on the 200 block of N. Madison Street about 7:40 p.m. June 29. The severity of the damage could make it hard for investigators with Snohomish County Fire District 3 to pinpoint the cause.

Fireworks are thought to have played a role in several other destructive blazes in recent days, Snohomish County officials said. They’ve tallied about $4 million in damage so far.

The vast majority of this year’s damage came from fireworks igniting shake roofs, said Mike Makela, a fire investigator with the Snohomish County Fire Marshals Office.

A stubborn two-alarm blaze off Jordan Road in Granite Falls on Thursday night likely was sparked by an outdoor grill on a wood deck, he said. That fire caused about $300,000 damage.

It will take a few weeks for officials to collect all the information about fires from around the county. A fire in Marysville on Saturday caused about $500,000 damage, Marysville Fire District spokeswoman Kristen Thorstenson said.

Hot and unseasonably dry weather created dangerous conditions. Many crews battled brush fires around the county. Everett firefighters spent two days snuffing out a blaze on Jetty Island.

Still, fireworks caused the most problems.

“People have got to realize that while fireworks are fun to play with, when they burn a house down it affects everybody,” Makela said.

Insurance premiums go up for all homeowners when claims are paid out, he said.

“Everybody pays for fireworks fires,” he said.

Crews from Fire District 1, which covers southern portions of the county, rushed to 92 calls on the July 4 holiday and the following morning, spokeswoman Leslie Hynes said. That’s about twice as many as on a normal day.

Between 10:20 p.m. and a little after midnight, the district’s firefighters went to three house fires, Hynes said. During that same period, they also had 13 fires involving brush, trees or trash bins.

Four fire-related injuries were reported in the district, none that threatened lives.

In the Monroe fire, Tarbert, 54, suffered smoke inhalation, burns and some bruises. She had no renter’s insurance.

The local American Red Cross Chapter provided for a three-days stay at a local motel. The Monroe United Methodist Church is collecting donations for her and others.

It’s emotionally difficult for her to recall her ordeal. The first thing she remembers is a boom awakening her while she slept upstairs.

“At that point, the whole front of the house was already engulfed,” she said.

She ran to the other side of the house and managed to save two cats belonging to the home’s owner by throwing them out a second-story window.

Then it was time to save herself. She crawled out the window, scooted down the roof and dangled off the edge. A neighbor on the ground helped break her fall.

She’s heartbroken that she couldn’t rescue more animals from inside.

A border collie belonging to the home’s owner died. So did her three cats: Licorice, Taffy and Snickers.

“They’re my kids,” she said. “I couldn’t have kids.”

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465 or nhaglund@heraldnet.com. Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437, jholtz@heraldnet.com.

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