A fire of unknown origin claimed a mobile home on North Whidbey Thursday, May 16.
The blaze is believed to have started sometime after midnight in a single-wide trailer at the back of an undeveloped lot on Van Dam Road. Firefighters worked to extinguish the flames for at least an hour, but the building was completely destroyed.
By first daylight, the home was a smoking ruin of scorched appliances, warped metal and melted plastic.
Fire officials strongly believe the home was unoccupied at the time but the site is still being searched as of Thursday morning, according to Marv Koorn, fire chief for North Whidbey Fire and Rescue.
"It doesn't look like anyone was in it, but we haven't totally pulled it apart yet," Koorn said.
The blaze was reported at 12:43 a.m. by a West Beach Road resident who said they smelled smoke and saw a glow in the sky, Koorn said.
"Engine 27 came out to investigate and found this," Koorn said, motioning to the raging fire.
Andy Urquhart, the nearest neighbor, said he was awake at the time, but wasn't aware of the event unfolding in the lot behind his house until after emergency responders arrived.
"I was watching a cop movie and saw lights but I thought it was the TV," he said.
It was only when his dogs began barking that he looked out the window and saw a legion of flashing firetrucks that he realized there was a fire.
His daughter, Tabitha, happened to be coming home about the same time and she said her heart skipped a beat when she saw the smoke and emergency vehicles on the street in front of her house.
"It scared the crap out of me," she said.
The mobile home is located at the end of a long dirt driveway that begins near the front of Urquhart's home. Firetrucks, water tenders and other emergency vehicles were lined up along the street.
The owner of the mobile home was not present, and according to Urquhart, is presently out of state. The building has not been occupied since last summer, he said.
The large lot is reminiscent of a junkyard, crammed with old cars, two semi-trailers and head-high piles of trash. A sign posted at the head of the driveway warns people to "Enter at own risk."
"It looks like a thrift store blew up," said Island County Sheriff's Deputy Jim Scott, the first person to arrive at the scene.
Koorn said the building still had power and a tripped circuit breaker was found, but it's too soon to determine a cause. Investigators are picking through the rubble this morning in hopes of learning how and where the fire started.