‘Sad to see’: Washougal businesses damaged in fire


The building is considered a "total loss"

WASHOUGAL, Wash. (KOIN) — A Washougal laundromat went up in flames that quickly spread to neighboring businesses in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Riverside Laundry burned down after sheets caught fire on Oct. 20, 2019. (Camas-Washougal Fire Dept.)

It started just before 1 a.m. at Riverside Laundry and when crews from the Camas-Washougal Fire Department arrived, they found smoke coming from the building. A total of 11 firetrucks were called to the scene on 4th Street, the first of which arrived around 12:45 a.m. A second alarm was called for the fire as crews could see smoke and flames growing from the building.

Neighbor Carter Strever said the commotion woke him up. His friend and neighbor, Cody Bemis, called 911 and cellphone video he took shows just how destructive the flames were as they ripped through the Riverside Laundry storefront and spread to adjoining businesses.

A still frame from cellphone video taken of the Washougal laundromat fire. October 20, 2019 (Courtesy Cody Bemis)

“I heard like 5 pops,” said Strever. “A little bit later, here come the sirens.”

Jared Cooper, the owner of Racers Division, a custom car shop two doors down from the laundromat, said the woman who owns the massage business next door called him early in the morning to warn him about the fire. After he rushed to the scene, he started moving his customers’ cars out to protect them.

“First thing we did was cut the door open so we could get the cars out,” said Cooper. “We have a classic car over there, a 69 Camaro SS—a car like that you can’t replace.”

He said the cars are alright and didn’t have any significant damage. Cooper said his biggest challenge will be figuring out where to go while cleanup and repairs are underway.

“None of the cars had any substantial damage, just sheet rock falling on the cars,” said Cooper. “Luckily cars are pretty resilient, they took it pretty good.”

Cooper said he’s still assessing the damage from the fire. The business’ front office lost a lot of equipment like computers and other software.

“For right now, we don’t have a place to operate immediately,” said Cooper. “You have a lot of blood sweat and tears in a place like this, so it’s a big of an emotional setback, but you just got to grind away and just find a way to continue—that’s what we’re going to do.”

The damage after a laundromat caught fire overnight in a Washougal shopping complex. October 20, 2019 (KOIN)

Residents said there has been a fire at this laundromat before. Neighbor Jay Cable said the fire that happened last June didn’t leave any damage on the outside, and was very different from Sunday morning’s destructive blaze.

“It’s kind of sad to see,” said Cable. “The thing that I noticed first is that metal roof melted and had collapsed in on itself—to me that takes quite a bit of heat.”

The Clark County Fire Marshal’s Office’s preliminary investigation shows that the fire may have started near or in a pile of sheets. However, the cause has not been determined. Riverside Laundry and the massage business next door were completely destroyed. Two more neighboring storefronts were also damaged. The damage estimate is around $150,000.

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