One ROUGH Week

Neighbor saves pair
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 had to 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 John Katte couldn't find the key, Skerbeck said.

Locked inside home
"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.

Staying with rescuers
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.

Two perish in small plane

Two Sequim men were killed Friday afternoon when their RV-8 experimental aircraft crashed in a field north of Sequim Valley Airport.

They were identified as 68-year-old Carroll B. "Jeep" Larson, the pilot, and 61-year-old Bob Reandeau Sr. of Sequim.

Federal Aviation Administration investigators were on scene by 5 p.m. Friday.

They were awaiting National Transportation Safety Board investigators to begin examining the wreckage to determine what caused the crash.

Investigators generally take the wreckage to a warehouse or other large building where the wreckage can be cleaned, arranged and analyzed.

A nearby homeowner called 9-1-1 at 2:15 p.m. after the aircraft suddenly disappeared while performing a series of touch-and-go landings at Sequim Valley Airport.

The airplane crashed nose-down in a recently plowed field north of 5612 Old Olympic Highway.

Personnel from Clallam County Fire District 3 and the Clallam County Sheriff's Office waded through the muddy field to investigate the wreckage.

The aircraft's tail markings, visible in photographs taken from news helicopters, were N747CL, which match those of Larson's RV-8 experimental aircraft.

Witnesses reported a dark-colored RV model aircraft resembling Larson's departed from Port Angeles' William R. Fairchild International Airport Friday afternoon headed toward Sequim.

"It's a very sad day for Sequim," said Andy Sallee, president of Sequim Valley Airport.
Reach Brian Gawley at

Fire leaves family homeless

A fire Thursday, Jan. 7, destroyed a at 709 E. Fir St. The home's occupants, Yvonne Sayer and her two children, were not injured, but their cat and two birds died and their dog remains missing.

Clallam County Fire District 3 spokesman Lt. Robert Rhoads said the house was fully involved when firefighters arrived at 2:36 p.m.

He said Friday the fire's origin remains under investigation.

Rhoads described it as a "backdraft fire" that smoldered, then flared up when Sayer returned home and opened the front door, feeding oxygen to the fire.

She was not seriously injured, but it was a potentially explosive situation, Rhoads said.

No other homes were threatened by the fire, which closed two blocks of Fir Street for an hour.

Flames and smoke were visible from the front porch, door and windows when firefighters arrived.

They entered the house to begin putting out the fire, eventually cutting a hole in the roof and gutting the home's mid-section.

Clallam County Fire District 3 responded with 21 personnel including three engines and two aid cars.

The Sequim Police Department sent two officers for traffic control and an ambulance was on standby.

Reach Brian Gawley at

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