A six-unit apartment building on the 2800 block of Mayfair Drive was engulfed in flames Sunday when Lewiston fire crews arrived on the scene shortly after 1 p.m.
No one was injured, but two apartments received extensive fire damage, and the other units suffered smoke and water damage, Chief Travis Myklebust said.
Gabrielle Kessel and Kameron Jacobsen, who rent one of the apartments, were in shock when they arrived and saw the charred remnants of their residence.
“We had a cat and brand new furniture,” Jacobsen said. “It’s all gone now. We went to the new Mexican restaurant in Clarkston to grab lunch, and I got a call from one of my co-workers about smoke coming from our neighborhood, so we took off. As soon as I pulled up, I saw it. I could see the blackness around everything and the flames.”
Kessel, 22, said she and Jacobsen, 27, moved into the Mayfair Apartments in May, and didn’t have renter’s insurance yet.
“I really liked this place, too,” she said. “It had a great view. We lost everything in there.”
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but Myklebust said numerous witnesses saw it start in the juniper bushes below the buildings. The fire quickly moved up the hill, and because of the extreme heat, rapidly spread.
Wilson Boots, who lives in the area, spotted a white plume of smoke and called 911, before heading to the apartments and banging on doors.
“I knocked on two doors with people inside who didn’t know there was a fire,” Boots said. “It was so hot, but thankfully the fire department arrived right away. It’s a bad deal, but thank God everyone’s OK.”
Raelene Hjelm, 20, has lived in the apartment building almost a year. She was packing to move when she saw “smoke flakes” and smelled something burning.
“I grabbed my dog, my purse and my phone and started calling 911,” Hjelm said, while holding her dog Chester. “I started panicking because I’ve never dealt with anything like this, and I don’t want anyone else to ever have to go through it.”
Avista crews were called to cut off power, and the Salvation Army arrived to assist folks displaced by the fire. The American Red Cross is also helping residents.
The first engine to arrive at 2825 Mayfair Drive found heavy fire coming from the bushes and building, the fire chief said. Crews quickly attacked the fire with multiple hose lines, and it was brought under control in about 35 minutes. Firefighters remained on the scene throughout the day extinguishing hot spots.
A neighboring apartment building was charred by the fire, but the blaze did not reach the interior.
Clarkston, Asotin County and the city of Asotin departments provided mutual aid, and Lewiston police and public works assisted with traffic control. A rehabilitation response vehicle from Clearwater Paper Fire also responded.
“During these high heat days, it is very important that we have enough firefighters on the scene so that firefighters don’t face circumstances that can lead to heat exhaustion,” Myklebust said. “Our crews did a phenomenal job with the situation they were facing.”
Sandaine may be contacted at email@example.com or (208) 848-2264. Follow her on Twitter @newsfromkerri.