History from the pages of the Forks Forum-March 20, 1947

Editor’s note, on March 17, 1947, Clallam Bay suffered a terrible fire. With recent pleas from volunteer fire departments all across the West End, it is a good time to think about how important

History from the pages of the Forks Forum

March 20, 1947

Editor’s note, on March 17, 1947, Clallam Bay suffered a terrible fire. With recent pleas from volunteer fire departments all across the West End, it is a good time to think about how important these volunteers are and also to ask that individuals think about volunteering if they can.


Clallam Bay fire destroys many businesses; one dead

One man is dead and more than half the business district of Clallam Bay is completely destroyed as the result of an early morning fire Monday. Paul Sine, age 44, died Monday afternoon in Davidson Hospital in Port Angeles after sustaining severe burns.

Businesses housed in the buildings on the waterfront side of the street which burned to the ground included a theater, a taxi office, drug store, hardware store, barber shop, tavern, meat market and cold storage lockers, hotel, and restaurant and a residence.

A number of other business houses which lined the south side of the street and undetermined number of homes were damaged by the smoke, flames, intense heat or sustained broken windows from the huge dynamite blast.

Some buildings were even rocked off their foundations by the blast.


Fire starts in vacant building

Origin of the blaze was in a vacant building near the dock and behind Whit’s Café which was filled with sawdust and excelsior. It is believed that Mr. Sine went to sleep in the cabin and his lighted cigarette touched off the flammable material.

Jean Fisk, accompanied by her two cousins from Shelton, who was returning to her home in Clallam Bay, first sighted the fire about 3:30 a.m. Miss Fisk and her companions went onto the Clallam Bay Hotel and roused the sleeping guests who fled to the street, many clad only in their night clothes, and spread the alarm.

Had it not been for the quick thinking of Miss Fisk and her companions, no doubt a number would have perished in the hotel.

Mrs. Loretta Bingston, veteran operator and manager of the Clallam Bay exchange of the Peninsula Telephone and Telegraph Company, is credited with organizing help to come to Clallam Bay to help fight the fire. Mrs. Bingston was compelled to work fast as shortly after the fire broke out, she was without telephone communication.



Use dynamite

Since the town of Clallam Bay is without firefighting equipment of any sort, it was necessary to resort to using dynamite to keep the fire from spreading to the south side of the business district.

Three different dynamite charges in all were set off. The last and largest set off in the theater was credited with stopping the fire spread. However, the severe concussion incited by the charge did considerable damage to standing stores and residences; broke and untold amount of windows and rocked buildings off their foundations.

Eye witnesses said that lumber, glass, telephone and light wires were literally flying across the street.

Electricity was off at 4:20 a.m. and had not been restored late Monday afternoon.

Workers for the the Pen. Tel. and Tel. Co. had a telephone line in working condition shortly before 5 o’clock.

It was estimated that the fire was brought under control at 6:30.

Had there been the usual heavy wind blowing it is doubtful that any portion of the town would have been saved.

Another casualty of the disaster was Mrs. Clyde Maneval who fell and broke her arm while trying to escape the dynamite blast!

Damage was estimated at about $100,000 and very little of this amount is covered by insurance since the rate in Clallam Bay is prohibitive.

The largest single loser is T.J. Fitzpatrick who owned most of the buildings in which the businesses were and operated the hotel and tavern.

Harry Lefler, who moved from Forks just recently to open the Clallam Bay Supply only last Saturday, lost heavily and it is not known whether his stock was insured. Almost his complete stock was destroyed as was household furniture stored upstairs in the building.

The following is a list of the businesses destroyed:

Clallam Bay Taxi, Borde Drug, Clallam Bay Supply, Dr R. V. Friedrich Dentist, Clallam Bay Tavern, Clallam Bay Hotel, Mitchell’s Meat Market, Whit’s Café, Clallam Bay Barber Shop and Laura Richards’ home.

Businesses damaged:

Murray Mercantile, had stock damaged, building scorched, windows damaged by the explosions. Peninsula Telephone and Telegraph building, concrete block loosened and both doors blown off.

The Pete Lacich Tavern had broken windows and other minor damage. A freak incident was a piece of wood shaped like an arrow hurled through a broken window and stuck in to a glass framed picture of a prize fighter.

Many windows in other businesses and houses were also broken.

Those who answered the call

It is estimated about 500 persons were on hand to fight the blaze.

The Forestry Service at Tyee were the first to arrive on the scene with firefighting equipment. They made the trip to Clallam Bay in record time. Other included Hoko Camp, Rayonier and Crown Zellerbach all of whom, sent equipment.