AUBURN, Wash. – Fire crews spent much of Wednesday watching for hot spots in a commercial building fire that all but destroyed a historic structure in downtown Auburn Tuesday.
Several people were evaluated for smoke inhalation but no one went to the hospital.
Officials say since the fire happened Tuesday afternoon many people were not home when the flames broke out. However, it appears most people have no home to go back to.
Fire officials say it’s just too dangerous for any of the people living in the Heritage Building to go back inside.
Approximately 40 people used to live in the apartments above the building, say officials, and there were about eight businesses below – many worry everything has been lost.
“It’s hurtful, I love this town,” said neighbor Quenton Bacon.
Bacon was one of the dozens of people who came to see first-hand the damage after Tuesday’s fire.
“I'm just staying with some family members right now,” said Jason Klem.
Klem says he saw the fire right after it started. Neighbors say it may have sparked in a clothes dryer.
Officials say the cause is still under investigation but now dozens of people are without a home.
“It could happen anywhere, that’s the thing,” said Klem. “It could happen at any apartment complex.”
“Seeing how close it got to my apartment, mine was the only one to survive,” said Bacon.
Bacon says he lives in the building next door. Early Wednesday firefighters allowed him to go back inside for his medication but others could only grab what they could when the fire broke out.
“Anything can be replaceable except for my family heirloom, that cannot be replaced,” said Klem. “That’s the only thing I’m really upset about.”
“Many of the residents that were in the Heritage Building had recently been homeless themselves,” said Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus. “So now once again the impact for them to be displaced.”
The fire burned in the nearly 100-year-old Heritage Building. A shelter at Cascade Middle School was opened where displaced renters can find food and a warm place to sleep.
Firefighters say they recovered a dog that died in the fire. For now, neighbors can do little but look at the damage and be thankful nobody was seriously injured.
“It just is what it is,” said Klem. “That’s just life. We just don’t know what happens day to day.”
City officials are asking for help in the form of donations of hygiene items, toiletries and adult winter coats since renters escaped with little more than the clothing on their backs.
Ready to eat foods and cash donations can also be made at the Auburn Food Bank.
City officials also said furniture donations like tables, chairs and small sofas will be accepted for donation this weekend at the Game Farm Park Annex Building.