Smoke billowed into the sky. Fire trucks sped down Orcas Road with lights flashing. At the Exchange, islanders watched on in disbelief and shock as they watched the building burned to the ground.
On Saturday, Feb. 9, at 4:48 p.m., Orcas Island Fire and Rescue Captain Bob Nutt was driving by the Orcas Transfer Station in a tanker truck and noticed smoke and flames coming from the Exchange complex. Nutt immediately called for additional help and began firefighting operations. He said there was “significant fire involvement in the heart of the Exchange complex with flames extending to the trees in the area.”
Forty-five OIFR members and ten units responded to the incident that lasted over five hours. Water for the fire was transported from a pond located about one half mile away from the fire. There were no injuries reported.
“It is presumed that someone took a burning object and put it in a trash can,” said Turner about how the fire was started.
The fire comes after the Exchange, a popular re-use facility, made headlines with its grassroots movement to take local control of solid waste on the island.
Orcas Recycling Services, which runs the Exchange, received a unanimous vote from the San Juan County Council in November to be the sole operator of the Orcas Island transfer, recycling and reuse facility starting March 31.
After the fire, islanders have expressed their reaction to the fire at the Exchange with words like – “historic tragedy,” “very sad,” and “the Orcas community will mourn this passing and stand to support the metamorphosis of the spirit of the Exchange.”
Members of the Orcas community are already discussing a fundraising drive. The Exchange Board of Directors say they are working on a recovery strategy.
“Just know that we will rise from the ashes into an even better Exchange.” wrote the Exchange Board of Directors on their Facebook page.