Bay Street shopping district a 'hazardous commercial area'

The recent fire at Myhre’s Restaurant demonstrates why downtown Port Orchard is a “hazardous commercial area,” according to Mike Wernet, a battalion chief for South Kitsap Fire and Rescue.

The buildings packed tightly together, and they’re not outfitted with modern fire protection.

“It’s a real danger,” he said. “We know that if we don’t get down and put the fire out right away, we could lose an entire block.”

But it’s unclear whether the benefits of retrofitting one of the buildings with more modern fire protection outweigh the costs, he said.

Sprinkler systems, for example, have some advantages.

“Sprinkler systems are intended to put fires out while they’re small before they’re really burning hot and fast,” said Wernet, adding that they typically work.

But if the Bay Street buildings started burning down, one after another, a sprinkler system wouldn’t stop the fire.

“Your system would be overwhealmed immediately,” said Wernet.

Each of buildings on Bay Street would need to install a sprinkler system for the project to be worthwhile, he said.

And installing the sprinkler systems can be expensive, because the older buildings weren’t designed for them, he said, adding, “I hate to say that the cost would outweigh the benefits.”

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