Fire destroys six Silverdale businesses

Fire races through the attic space of a Silverdale Way retail complex as it destroys six business Sunday afternoon in what became a three alarm fire that drew crews from Bremerton and Naval Base Kitsap. - contributed
Fire races through the attic space of a Silverdale Way retail complex as it destroys six business Sunday afternoon in what became a three alarm fire that drew crews from Bremerton and Naval Base Kitsap.
— image credit: contributed

A three-alarm fire destroyed six businesses in a Silverdale retail complex Sunday afternoon sending various employees into the parking lots at 9995 Silverdale Way NW as it quickly devoured the building.

The fire was the biggest in Silverdale for more than a decade.

The fire and resulting damage displaced an estimated 40 employees, but none were hurt in the blaze that started in the Desert Sun Tanning Salon shortly after 2 p.m. Authorities said that the fire started after a tanning bed bulb malfunctioned.

The first call to Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue Station 51, about one mile away, was made at 2:07 p.m., was described as an “appliance fire,” according to Battalion Chief Steve Hostetter, the commander on scene during the fight.

By the time the first truck and supporting ambulance arrived four minutes later, it was clear to firefighters that more than an appliance was burning on Silverdale Way and the call bumped to one alarm structure fire.

Quickly growing to three alarms, the Bremerton Fire Department and the Navy’s Federal Fire Department joined CKFR to battle the blaze. Monday, fire crews worked to kill hotspots still smoking in the Forza Coffee Company shop as business owners met with insurance agents in adjacent parking lots.

An exploding lightbulb in a tanning bed at Desert Sun caused the fire, according to  the Kitsap County Fire Marshal’s Office. Forza Coffee, Cigar Land, Hearing Solutions, Ed Wyse Beauty Supply, Cruise Holiday and Desert Sun Tanning Salon sustained severe fire, smoke, and water damage, said Ileana LiMarzi, spokeswoman for Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue.

Ken Hwang, the retail complex owner, said he bought the building seven years ago and plans to rebuild as soon a possible.

Hwang said the fire started “small” and that he was concerned how it moved into the attic and spread so quickly to destroy his building and all the businesses within.

Generally tanning bed fires are contained to the salons in which they occur, largely due to the engineering of drywall material that is rated to withstand fire for up to 45 minutes before succumbing.

“No one expected the whole thing to burn,” Hwang said.

Hostetter said a few factors contributed to the surprisingly quick spread of fire into the attic and throughout the building. Primarily, a “flimsy” vent situated directly above the tanning bed that caught fire allowed flames to enter directly into the attic that began to weaken the truss system on which the roof was built.

Had the vent not been there, it’s a good bet the fire would have been contained to the salon. Fire walls in the attic would have also been a good idea, he said.

Hostetter said that several attempts were made to knock down the blaze from inside the building in adjacent businesses, but he pulled his firefighters when safety became an issue.

“I had fire right on top of them,” he said. “It’s how four or five [firefighters] die a time.”

A “trench cut” was made in the roof in attempt to break the fire, but the blaze was blowing down eaves and soffits. Hostetter said that once fire has begun to eat at the trusses his team has about 10 minutes to gain control or face real serious danger.

“I sure wish we could have stopped it early,” he said. “We gave it a good aggressive try.”

The building was not equipped with a sprinkler system. Building codes at the time the complex was built did not require sprinkler systems, LiMarzi said.

“It happened really fast,” said Heather Isan, a Silverdale resident who shopped at Ed Wyse Beauty Supply. “I can’t believe it. Everyone I know goes to Desert Sun.”

Rebecca Thompson, manager of Hearing Solutions, a business in the complex, was driving through town Sunday when she noticed black smoke filling the sky that seemed to be coming from her business. She made it to the fire in time to watch the roof collapse.

Monday, Thompson pulled 1,500 medical records from the hearing aid business after canceling that day’s appointments. Much of the fire jumped over her office. Though the office was mostly destroyed by water and smoke, the medical files surveyed well because they were in a filing cabinet.

Thompson plans to have temporary office open within a day or two to serve her clients.

“We lucked out,” she said.

According to fire officials, the entire structure will likely be declared a total loss.

Jamee Paluay was working as a barista in Forza Coffee when the fire alarm sounded. She evacuated the store and shut off the grill before joining others outside to see if there was a fire or it was a false alarm. She said by about 2:30 p.m. the fire had only advanced as far as Ed Wyse Beauty Supply.

Forza coffee manager, Emily Spencer, said the business was mostly destroyed, but expected to salvage the espresso machines for the “grand reopening.” Spencer said she expects rebuilding to take nine months to a year.

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