December 22, 2009 in City

Three missing in Curlew apartment fire

Dozens evacuated; Red Cross assisting residents, firefighters
The Spokesman-Review
 

Three people are missing and presumed dead after an early-morning apartment fire Tuesday in the historic Curlew School building, authorities said this afternoon.

Two of the missing may be children, confirmed Ferry County Prosecutor Mike Sandona, who also serves as coroner. No names or identities were given.

The remains of the building, a community landmark that had been converted to residences, were still on fire late Tuesday, preventing a search of the rubble for any victims, Sandona said.

Sandona said he was asked to be at the site this morning to begin the recovery process.

“They are hoping to start digging through the rubble (Wednesday),” Sandona said. “If there are bodies, they know the approximate area where they may be.”

The Ferry County Sheriff’s office confirmed that at least three people were missing in the 1 a.m. blaze, two others were injured, and more than 30 residents had been displaced.

The sheriff’s office reported that one person was taken to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle and another was being treated at Ferry County Memorial Hospital in Republic.

The building is known locally as Old Curlew School. The landmark, at the corner of Boulder Creek and Curlew School roads, has been on the National Register of Historic Places for nearly 30 years.

“It’s gone,” said Joyce Longfellow, owner of Curlew Store Inc.

Evacuees were taken to the newer public school in Curlew, which is on holiday break this week.

Longfellow identified the owner of the building as longtime resident Joe Abraham. His wife is Superior Court Judge Rebecca Baker of Ferry County.

The Curlew School building dates back to 1900 and is among a group of historic buildings in Ferry County, including the Ansorge Hotel in Curlew.

The American Red Cross dispatched an aid crew and an emergency response vehicle to the town 15 miles south of the Canadian border in northern Ferry County to assist displaced residents with food, clothing, medical items, temporary shelter and other goods, said Megan Snow, a spokeswoman for the Inland Northwest Chapter of Red Cross. The emergency response vehicle was going to support the firefighting effort, she said in an e-mail.

Sandona said he was told Abraham, who was out of town at the time of the fire, also agreed to help pay for rooms at a nearby motel for displaced residents.

Staff writer Sara Leaming contributed to this report.

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