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Top Ten of 2013: No. 2; Downriggers destroyed by fire

Firefighters from Orcas and San Juan islands watch as black smoke billows from the fire-ravaged interior of Downriggers Restaurant, Aug. 17.  - Scott Rasmussen
Firefighters from Orcas and San Juan islands watch as black smoke billows from the fire-ravaged interior of Downriggers Restaurant, Aug. 17.
— image credit: Scott Rasmussen

 

A towering blaze lit up the Friday Harbor waterfront in the early morning hours of Aug. 17, as a swift moving fire tore through the top level of the Port of Friday Harbor’s Spring Street Landing Building and left the interior of Downriggers Restaurant smoldering in a skeleton of ruins.

Dispatched to the scene at about 2:30 a.m., firefighters prevented the fire from spreading to the building’s ground floor but were unable to keep it from gutting the top story, home to Downriggers for more than 20 years and several iconic waterfront eateries earlier as well, like The Mariner. Although structurally in tact, the ground floor proved uninhabitable because of smoke and water damage, leaving another three businesses without a home, and a restaurant crew of about 50 summertime workers temporarily without a job.Downriggers blaze

Battling the blaze proved problematic in part because the restaurant, whose construction pre-dates today’s building standards, lacked overhead sprinklers and its ceiling had been randomly reconfigured and remodeled over the years. The building was purchased by the Port in 1994 for just under $1 million.

The cause? According to investigators, rodents are largely to blame. The fire started behind a wall in the kitchen when an electrical wire — gnawed on and its integrity impaired — sparked and ignited a cluster of droppings and debris.

After months of negotiations with its insurer, the Port approved demolition of the fire-scarred building in early December. But what will replace that landmark building remains to be seen.

— Scott Rasmussen

 

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