The aftermath of the fire | Editorial

The aftermath of the fire | Editorial

Stories of community members supporting first responders, and assisting business owners who have been impacted, have poured in this week as islanders grapple with the aftermath of a fire that made Spring Street unrecognizable.

Multiple agencies came together to keep the public safe, including San Juan County Public Works, the county sheriff, and The Town of Friday Harbor. In fact, the entire county came together as additional resources were needed. Orcas and Lopez fire crew both pitched in. As firefighters battled the flames, Spring Street was lined with onlookers. These were not just ordinary gawkers, however. Instead, islanders made themself useful, brought first responders water and food, cheered them on, stood beside and even hugged those who were watching their livelihoods burn.

By the next day, both the San Juan County Economic Development Council and the Friday Harbor Chamber of commerce set up donations sites to assist the businesses. By Friday, April 15, the EDC had raised nearly $20,000, and the chamber had raised $15,000. The Crows Nest and Sky Bar have also set up GoFund Me and have brought in additional donations for those individual businesses. Each business owner has stated how amazing the island has been. The owners of the Crows Nest said “We’ve received so much love and support; it’s been overcoming—in a good way. I don’t know how we’d get through this if we were anywhere other than Friday Harbor.”

Victoria Compton, executive director of the EDC called the incredible response a cornucopia of support. Moving forward, she pointed out also that many of the businesses will have temporary locations and that one of the best things we can do is shop at those new venues to keep them going while the buildings are reconstructed. Compton is also working on low-interest loans, as well as grants to help businesses rebuild, and Becki Day, executive director of the chamber said further fundraisers are in the works.

Meanwhile, the fire departments and town will be reviewing data in order to improve fire response and prevention in Friday Harbor.

The combined efforts of the local sheriff with regional and national fire response teams thankfully brought the investigation to a rapid conclusion. Locals had an understandably emotional reaction to the news someone intentionally started the flames, many have described it as a punch in the gut. Everyone is asking a very valid question, why.

A suspect has been arrested, and over the next weeks and months, the story of why will begin to unfold. Meanwhile, let us as individuals focus on supporting one another and the daunting but not impossible task of rebuilding.

This community is no stranger to fire. Twenty years ago, locals watched as a fire engulfed the other side of the block, and that was the second time in history that side had burned. The first was around World War II. Even further back in history, in 1911, a lumber mill located where the Friday Harbor Port is today, caught fire, sparking several fires throughout the town. In reaction to each event, this island became united, recovered and rebuilt stronger than before.

If there is anything I know about this community, it is that we are resilient. Together, we will rise from the ashes.