Fireworksblamed for fire calls

Published on Thu, Jul 8, 2004
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Fireworks blamed for fire calls

Firefighters from Blaine answered over a dozen calls this past Fourth of July weekend, the most serious being the $180,000 damage done to the home of Dr. Phil Walrod, 83, a retired professor of journalism living at 1578 D Street.

Walrod and his small dog and cat escaped injury but Walrod’s live-in care giver, Gordon Schmautz, received second-degree burns to his left hand and first degree burns over much of his upper body. Schmautz was treated and released at St. Joseph Hospital in Bellingham

Investigators believe that the fire started on an outside wall and was probably caused by fireworks being set off in the neighborhood.
A neighbor, Brenna Woronuik, discovered the fire shortly after 3 a.m. and alerted Blaine police officer Dan Sartain before running over to the house and pounding on the door. Sartain followed, dialing 911 as he ran to the house. His back yard and Walrod’s touch on one corner. After the policeman forced entry the two escorted Dr. Walrod out of the house.

“By the time I got there,” said Division 13 Fire Chief Jim Rutherford, “it was fully involved in the back, and by the time we got it out the front received a lot of smoke damage.”

“You can quote me on this,” continued Rutherford bluntly, “that if it were up to me all personal fireworks would be banned. There are always a few people who are irresponsible, and that creates huge problems for us as it obviously has for Dr. Walrod.” Rutherford said the majority of the weekend calls were for minor burns or grass fires, but “because of the possible need for rescue this was a second alarm call, and 25 firefighters responded.”