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Fire destroys San Juan Island home Nov. 18

A modestly-sized two-story home on Miller goes up in flames early Thursday afternoon. The 2,400 sq. ft. home, remodeled from a barn, and its contests are
A modestly-sized two-story home on Miller goes up in flames early Thursday afternoon. The 2,400 sq. ft. home, remodeled from a barn, and its contests are 'a total loss', according to SJI Fire Chief Steve Marler.
— image credit: Ron Garner/SJI Fire Dept.

A San Juan Island man was left to pick up the pieces in unforgiving weather after a fast-moving fire destroyed his Miller Road home early Nov. 18.

Within 24 hours after the home burned, snow began to fall and temperatures plunged. The home was one of three of similar size on Whitman Dunham’s lot in the 400 block of Miller Road.

The building, a former barn remodeled into two-story home and made mostly of wood, was completely engulfed when the first wave of firefighters arrived on the scene, San Juan Island Fire Chief Steve Marler said.

Marler estimated that the home was about 2,400 square feet in size. He said the home and its contents were beyond rescue when firefighters arrived.

“It was just about on the verge of collapse when our guys first got there,” he said. “Essentially, it’s a total loss.”

Marler said firefighters responded to the scene after the Sheriff’s Department received a 911 call from a woman on the property that afternoon. He said he’s unsure if the call came from Dunham’s daughter or a tenant who shares the property.

According to Marler, Dunham told firefighters at the scene that he may have left a stove on when he left the house about two hours before the fire broke out. A large number his personal and household belongings were consumed by the blaze, Marler said.

Orcas Island firefighter and Deputy Fire Marshal Paul Turner was at the scene the following day to investigate the cause, which at this point appears accidental, Marler said.

“There’s nothing at this point causing us any suspicion that it was anything other than an accidental fire,” he said.

Marler said Dunham intends to use one of the other buildings as a home for the time being, and that he declined an offer by the Red Cross of temporary shelter. A relief fund was set up at the Friday Harbor branch of Islanders Bank; call Sophie Rice, 370-5356, for information about the relief fund.

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