Forks History from the pages of the Forks Forum September 30, 1954

  • Wed Sep 24th, 2014 11:23pm
  • Life

Olympic Apartments Sept. 24

Explosion, fire level 3-story apartment building last Friday

Just six days ago at 3:10 p.m., Friday, the Olympic Apartment building burned down, after a gas explosion shattered it and glass windows as far as three blocks away.

Mrs. Alice Coyle was burned badly and 33 people were made homeless. Damage has been estimated near the $100,000 mark.

The Forks Volunteer Fire Department did a marvelous job of keeping the fire from spreading. Almost every one of the 33 residents lost all personal belongings.

Little could be done to save the apartment building. Mrs. Coyle, about age 56, manager of the Olympic Dining Room in the building, was critically burned.

After preliminary treatment at the Olympic Clinic, she was flown to Seattle by Darrel Klahn for further treatment. She is at Swedish Hospital.

Four others were treated for superficial burns and injuries following the blast and fire. They are: Mrs. Ruth McLenighan, Mrs. Helen Guintoli, James Breckenridge, (driver of the gas fuel truck at the scene) and Eugene James, who was overcome after helping with the fire.

Eyewitnesses reported seeing what appeared to be a cloud of steam near the building’s 500-gallon liquid gas tank just before the blast occurred. They also said they could hear a hissing sound.

The building’s roof was lifted 10 feet and debris was thrown high into the air, onlookers said. The following fire enveloped the building in a few moments.

Townsmen immediately ran through the building looking for anyone that might have been trapped inside by falling debris.

They quickly began removing furnishings from four of the ground floor apartments. The building contained 14 apartments, a dental office, the dining room and nine sleeping rooms.

Townspeople pitched in to do whatever they could to aid the fire department. When it was obvious nothing could be done to save the building, men turned to help battle to save the other houses and buildings on the same block.

The liquid gas fuel tank was located to the north of the building. A laundry room, located nearest the tank, was completely leveled with the washers and dryers sitting in the midst of the ruins.

The sheet metal roof connecting the three-story apartment building and the laundry was blown off and scattered over a 100-foot area.

Several persons in the offices of Dr. Robert Baker, dentist, missed serious injury. They escaped from the rooms immediately after the explosion.

George Diimmel of the Far West Gas Company said he believed the liquid gas tank was in good condition.

The building owner Jerry Sander purchased it last June. It is insured but figures are unavailable.

Firemen and volunteers stood watch over the small fires which continued to burn throughout the night.

(Editor’s note: a few weeks later Mrs. Coyle died from her injuries.)