Firefighters thought they’d extinguished a Pasco apartment building fire early Monday only for it to flare up again a couple of hours later, leaving five families homeless.
“We are very thankful that none of the residents were injured, but unfortunately they lost virtually everything,” said Jeanne Jelke, executive director of the Red Cross in the Tri-Cities.
Nineteen people lived in the four-plex at 2210 Henry Place. The fire started on the deck of one apartment after an Easter barbecue.
Pasco Fire Battalion Chief Dave Hare said the preliminary cause is believed to be “improperly discarded barbecue materials.” Erica Flores was staying at the apartment, which is rented by her mother, Maribel Castellanos, and said her brother-in-law spotted the flames on the deck at about 1 a.m.
Everyone in the four units got outside safely and fire crews put out the blaze, which had spread to the attic, by about 3 a.m. At that time, fire damage was limited to the two top units, and the first-floor apartments had some water damage, Hare said. He said after fire crews left, another fire ignited in the attic and spread.
Firefighters were able to remove some items from the units for the families before the second blaze took over about 6 a.m. Flores said her mother’s apartment and possessions were destroyed.
“The second fire was really horrible,” she told the Herald. “That was the worst fire. Really horrible. Everything was gone. We don’t have nothing at all.”
What few possessions that tenants managed to save were lined up along walkways outside of the four-plex as daylight broke Monday morning.
Four Red Cross volunteers mobilized to help the families, Jelke said.
They provided them with emergency supplies and purchasing cards for clothing and food, and they arranged for them to stay in a hotel for three nights.
The agency also is working with community partners to line up emergency housing for the families after those nights, Jelke said.
“We hope this community will rally to support them and assist the Red Cross with its response,” she said. The agency already has committed $6,000 in help for the five families.
Hare said investigators still are trying to determine the cause of the second fire, and piece together a timeline of when crews left and when the fire rekindled.
“We are going to take a good hard look, sit down and put together a timeline to narrow it down. We will see what we can come up with,” he said.
Hare said it’s not clear how long crews were gone before the second fire flared up. He said he hoped to know more today.
Pasco was helped by the Kennewick and Richland fire departments, Benton Fire District 1 and Franklin Fire District 3. One firefighter suffered a minor injury fighting the blaze.
Contributions to the Red Cross disaster relief fund can be delivered or mailed to 7202 W. Deschutes Ave., Kennewick, 99336, or call 509-783-6195 or go to www.redcross.org.