By Paul Gottlieb
Olympic Peninsula News Group
Clallam County Commissioner Bill Peach and his wife, Anita, escaped injury when their Beaver-area house in the 203000 block of U.S. Highway 101 burned, killing the couple’s six cats despite firefighters’ efforts to save them.
The couple stayed in the Forks Motel after the fire last Thursday night, Bill Peach said early Friday afternoon.
“Tomorrow’s a different day,” he said.
“We’re doing basic stuff, washing clothes, looking for a place to stay.”
The flames destroyed an upstairs bedroom where the fire began at about 5 p.m., possibly sparked by a portable space heater, said Fire Chief Bill Paul, of Forks- area Clallam County Fire District 1.
The blaze was under control by 7:30 p.m. and remains under investigation.
When firefighters arrived, about 50 percent of the house was involved in flames.
The couple is looking for a rental home in the Forks area while they repair their home, Bill Peach said.
The home is repairable and the Peaches have insurance, Paul said.
The three-bedroom 2,200-square-foot home is valued at $274,000.
The Peninsula Communications dispatch center received the fire call a 5:05 p.m. Thursday.
Anita said the couple was in the downstairs living room when the blaze broke out.
“I could hear some kind of crinkling sound,” she said.
Her husband said he was glad the smoke alarm went off.
“It went off and we went upstairs, and I said holy [expletive deleted], it’s a fire,” he said.
Peach said he felt “absolutely” glad they had a smoke detector.
“It went pretty quick when it got going,” Anita said.
“It was straight over the living room where the fire started, and it blew out [the bedroom] windows. The rafters look fine.”
She said the space heater had not been used for several months.
The Peaches’ two dogs escaped the fire, but two adult cats and four 4-month-old kittens that were in an upstairs bedroom died.
The pets were in a bedroom that was across a hallway from the fire, Paul said.
Bill said the couple had adopted two rescue cats two months ago, one of which was pregnant.
The COVID-19 pandemic prevented them from making much of an effort to find the cats a home, he said.
Firefighters conducted chest compressions on the animals to no avail.
“We tried a little cat CPR kind of thing,” Paul said. “We tried to bring the little kittens back, but we couldn’t.”
Paul said 12 emergency personnel responded, including two from District 6, as did pumpers from the Forks and the Beaver stations and a tender from Beaver.
Bill Peach, 64, is having hip replacement surgery Monday. He is looking forward to eliminating pain that’s been plaguing him for months.
“That’s the part I want to get rid of,” he said. “I’m like a kid at Christmas.”
He said he won’t be able to participate in commissioners’ meetings for one or maybe two weeks.
“Then, I’ll be back in the groove,” he said.