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Family logging business loses shop, garage in fire

J.D. Boehme looks over the remains of a workshop and garage that was destroyed by a fire started by an orchard heater. He and his father operate the South Kitsap family business, Boehme and Son Logging, which lost vehicles and much of their equipment in the blaze. - Brett Cihon/Staff photo
J.D. Boehme looks over the remains of a workshop and garage that was destroyed by a fire started by an orchard heater. He and his father operate the South Kitsap family business, Boehme and Son Logging, which lost vehicles and much of their equipment in the blaze.
— image credit: Brett Cihon/Staff photo

Fire ripped through the workspace of a small family logging business in South Kitsap on Sunday, destroying a shop that had stood for 30 years.

Don Boehme, 72, the owner of Don Boehme and Son Logging, was cutting wood on the property Sunday afternoon with his son, J.D. Boehme, and his grandson, J.R. Boehme, when the nearly 1,800-square-foot garage and workshop pivotal to their business operations caught on fire after an orchard heater used to keep the shop warm malfunctioned.

The three worked in the shop throughout the day but had gone out for a while to cut wood, Don Boehme said. When they came back, the workshop and adjacent garage were billowing with smoke.

He said they tried to save what they could from the fire. J.D. Boehme attached a Chevy pickup to a heavy-duty log truck sitting immobile under the workshop’s overhang.

Don Boehme managed to tow the log truck away from the fire while one of the other men called South Kitsap Fire and Rescue. They then tried to save a 1988 Acura Legend and a 1999 Chevy Tahoe parked in the garage. But the fire, fed by the cedar siding of the building, had shorted out the garage door opener and they couldn’t open the bay doors.

By then, they knew everything else in the garage was lost.

“There was so much smoke and heat,” Boehme said. “We had to let the fire go.”

The men also worried the fire would reach the family home, which is only about 15 feet from the garage.

“There were flames shooting out the garage towards the house,” he said. “We were worried it would get the house, too.”

Joan Boehme, Don’s wife, said they had wanted to connect the house to the garage for years. Thank God we didn’t, she said.

SKFR crews arrived in time to save the house, but the garage was engulfed by the blaze.

Kitsap County Fire Marshall David Lynam determined on Monday that the fire was started by a runaway orchard heater — a large, antiquated device that malfunctioned and lost the ability to cool.

“These are large heaters mostly used to heat outdoor space,” Lynam said. “They’re practically antiques.”

Though SKFR’s response to the blaze took less than five minutes, J.D. Boehme said, the garage couldn’t be saved. Two cars, a $20,000 truck engine, a transmission and an assortment of logging tools and equipment was lost. J.D. Boehme said they plan to rebuild the business, which started in 1977, but it will take some time.

“It’s going hurt a bit,” he said.

The men had spent the day working on a new engine to put in the log truck, using time during the down season and a depressed logging economy.

“We haven’t worked in the last couple weeks because of the snow, and logging is slow right now,” Boehme said. “We were trying to put a new engine in the truck.”

The slowdown has been especially tough for a small logging contractor that employees only family members. The Boehmes hold out hope that they can recoup their losses and get back to work soon, even though so much of what they had is gone.

“You’ll see, we’ll be back to work in a couple of weeks,” J.D Boehme said. “You got to keep working.”

 

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