Neighbor rescues homeowners from fire

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A quick-moving neighbor rescued a couple from their burning home on Holgerson Road early Monday morning Jan. 11, preventing any serious injuries.

The fire destroyed a storage shed connected to the house and part of the garage.

Firefighters kept the flames from spreading through the single-story house but did cut a hole in the living room roof. The house also sustained extensive smoke damage.

Firefighters were able to rescue items from the house before attacking the fire.

Damage still was being assessed Monday morning. The fire’s origin and cause remain under investigation.

“Thank goodness (neighbor Ben Skerbeck) got us out of there,” said homeowner John Katte.

He and his wife, Rose, have lived for 12 years in the home located one-half mile up Holgerson Road northwest of Sequim.

Skerbeck said everyone was asleep when the fire broke out early Monday morning.

“My wife alerted me there was a fire. I had just enough time to get on a pair of pants and run outside.

I knew they were in there and tried getting their attention but couldn’t,” he said.

“The door was locked and I tried kicking it down but it’s steel so I couldn’t.

“I was about to throw a rock through the window when I saw (John Katte) running around inside.”

The door to the Kattes’ house locks from the inside because Rose Katte is prone to wandering and he couldn’t find the key, Skerbeck said.

“He got his key and got the door unlocked. It only took about two minutes but it was a long two minutes. Then I carried his wife out of the house.

“The propane tank was howling like a rocket and we were afraid of an explosion. So we got about 200 feet away, behind a tree. Some propane containers exploded but not that big one,” Skerbeck said.

Katte moved his car across the street from the house before three fire engines and two water tenders from Clallam County Fire District 3 arrived.

“The house was about 25-percent involved when we arrived,” said Lt. Paul Rynearson.

Firefighters attacked the fire from outside, then entered the house and put out the flames within half an hour.

“(John Katte) has no (other) family so it would have been a really long night for them,” Skerbeck said.

“Now they are in our house and they are warm and safe. The Red Cross is seeing about getting them housing. If my wife hadn’t woken up, they would have been cooked.

“The house was full of smoke, but we got them out of there. That could have been way worse,” he said.

Reach Brian Gawley at

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