A Sammamish man pulled his elderly neighbor from a burning home Wednesday night in the Sahalee neighborhood, as emergency lights flashed and fire trucks rushed to the scene.
The fire in the 2000 block of 208th Place Northeast was reported at about 6 p.m. or shortly after, Eastside Fire & Rescue Battalion Chief Glenn Huffman said. Neighbors said they believe the fire started in the garage and it eventually ripped through the 1970s-style tan rambler.
Flames shot 50 feet into the air. The blaze punched holes through the roof. Walls in the garage burned and just disappeared.
Michele Barton, a neighbor, said her husband, Greg Barton, ran into the burning home after they spotted flames. “He gets on his knees. He couldn’t see anything,” she said, referring to her husband.
But Greg Barton heard his neighbor, a man in his 80s or 90s, moaning inside the house. He found him and pulled him to safety, she said.
The elderly man suffered burns to the back of his head, neighbors said. They gave him water while he lay on his back in the grass outside the house. They added that he was coughing but breathing. Medics rushed him to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
As of Thursday morning, the man was in serious condition in the intensive care unit, Harborview spokeswoman Susan Gregg said. "But he is improving," she said.
Greg Barton was taken to Overlake Hospital Medical Center so doctors could check his condition.
The first fire crew on the scene went to the street behind the burning house to contain the blaze, Huffman said.
“He pulled the line to the backside of the house to protect the neighbors’ houses which were being threatened by fire,” Huffman said, referring to a firefighter.
Other units arrived at the front of the house and began putting down fire hoses and fighting the blaze, he said. “They had fire through the roof and garage and into the house,” he said.
While fire crews were rushing to the blaze, they received additional calls from neighbors saying that flames were engulfing the structure. Additional fire teams were dispatched, Huffman said.
In total, about 35 to 40 firefighters, including crews from the Redmond Fire Department, responded to the scene. Dispatchers sent five engines, two ladder trucks, medic units and an air support vehicle to the scene.
Crews had the fire contained within 20 minutes after initial calls were received and it was completely extinguished about 35 minutes after 911 operators learned of the incident, Huffman said.
Firefighters succeeded in keeping the fire from spreading to other structures. “While the neighbors’ houses were threatened, they were not damaged,” Huffman said.
While some neighbors told Sammamish Patch they felt the fire response was slow – possibly 45 minutes for the aid vehicle after 911 was called – Huffman said he felt the response was normal.
“Knowing where our fire station is and listening to the radio traffic, there were no problems of our trucks getting here,” he said, adding that the community has speed bumps.
Residents gathered on the streets in this quiet, gated community to recount what happened. Several said the elderly man is the original resident of the house and a well-respected member of the community.
The house smoldered in the evening with firefighters climbing on ladders to spray water on hot spots. Smoke filled the neighborhood, as firefighters rested and neighbors watched.
As of Wednesday evening, it was too early to estimate the dollar damage or the cause of the fire, Huffman said.
“It is a total loss,” he said.
Fire inspectors were expected on the scene to conduct an investigation, Huffman said. Even into the evening, the day’s temperatures stayed in the 70-degree range.
Editor's note: This story was updated on Friday, Aug. 26. Officials have given the cause of the fire and a dollar damage estimate. Additional photos have been added from Jan Holmes and Sean O'Connell, as well as the embedded video clip of the fire from Gage Bench. Sammamish Patch is grateful to all of them for sharing their work.