A fire on Olsen Lane in Harbor Saturday afternoon destroyed a three-RV garage, a two-story attached shop and threatened nearby homes.
Eleven callers reported the fire at 2:33 p.m., and numerous others throughout Brookings and Harbor noticed the black smoke in the skies above.
Larry Rambeck lived in the adjacent building and lost all his tools and clothing, his son said on a gofundme site. He, too, was on his way home when he learned the garage was on fire. Family is raising money so Rambeck can return to Alaska.
The residents of the the home, which was not affected by the fire, were returning from church when they saw the heavy black smoke in Harbor.
“We thought, ‘That looks like it’s real close to our house,’” the mother of three said as she consoled her oldest daughter. “We got closer and thought, ‘That could be our house.’”
Destroyed in the fire were two RVs, one of which the family hadn’t yet had the chance to use.
“If you look at the front of it, it’s like, ‘What was that? I think that might have been headlights,’” said Harbor Fire Chief Bob Larson. “Damage was so extensive you can’t tell.”
Firefighters attacked the fire from the front and sides of the garage as a neighbor hosed down bushes in her yard. The building eventually collapsed in the center. A small attached shop with a bedroom within was damaged, as well.
“It was amazingly intact after we got the fire controlled,” Larson said. “You could still see the bed, the bedding, the wallboard was still up.”
An estimated 30 firefighters responded from Harbor, Brookings, Fort Dick and Smith River.
Larson said he and Capt. Jeff Lee were first on scene to a fully-involved building.
“It was really hot,” Larson said. “There’s fuel in the vehicles, the building was heated with propane; it all added to the intensity.”
Firefighters worked for hours to prevent the fire from spreading to nearby homes. The fire was declared under control at 3:30 p.m., and engines started clearing the scene at 5:40 p.m.
“We probably knew we weren’t going to have additional structures catch, but it was just burning and burning and burning,” Larson said. “Some of the places in the motorhome, water wasn’t getting into the nooks and crannies. We were still spraying water at hotspots after dark. It was a pretty serious thing going on.”
He estimated firefighters sprayed between 10,000 and 20,000 gallons of water before the fire was out, as about 20 onlookers gathered on the sidewalk and traffic on Benham Lane backed up.
The origin and cause of the fire has yet to be determined.