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Memories burn with Snoqualmie Medical Clinic blaze

Firefighters attack a raging blaze at Snoqualmie Medical Clinic late Friday, Oct. 1, in downtown Snoqualmie. The fire originated in an overheated light ballast and spread to gut the 1947 building. Physicians planned to re-open in a new location this week. - Photo by Mark Gifford
Firefighters attack a raging blaze at Snoqualmie Medical Clinic late Friday, Oct. 1, in downtown Snoqualmie. The fire originated in an overheated light ballast and spread to gut the 1947 building. Physicians planned to re-open in a new location this week.
— image credit: Photo by Mark Gifford

For Dr. Maurice Doerfler, the blaze that gutted Snoqualmie Medical Clinic late Friday, Oct. 1, destroyed three decades of memories.

Doerfler, who practices with Thomas Balch at the clinic and was a presence there since the 1970s, was stunned by the loss.

“There’s nothing you can say. At least everybody’s still alive,” he said. “No one was hurt.”

More than 30 firefighters from Snoqualmie, Fall City and Eastside Fire and Rescue responded to the fire, which was reported at 11:20 p.m. at 38700 River Street next to Snoqualmie City Hall.

Neighbors gathered in the flickering light to watch as firefighters circled the building, its roof billowing fire and smoke.

“There was nothing to do for it but surround and drown,” Snoqualmie Fire Chief Bob Rowe said. “We tried to protect it the best we could,” but the fire gutted the building. Firefighters cut a wooden breezeway to stop the blaze from claiming adjacent offices.

Investigators estimated the 1957 structure suffered a $500,000 loss. It was one of Snoqualmie’s biggest fires in years.

Rowe said the blaze stemmed from an overheated fluorescent light ballast that dropped from the ceiling onto combustible materials. The fire originated in the part of the building closest to River Street.

On Monday morning, clinic staff gathered at the burned building to plan their next move in what would have been a busy week for appointments. Beside “No Trespassing” fire investigation signs, staff hung notes with doctors’ phone numbers and asked clients to contact their providers.

The clinic was insured, and important patient information was retrieved from a fireproofed computer.

“We’ve got almost all the information,” clinic office manager Sheri Moklebust said. “We’ll be back. We’re going to recover.”

The building’s owners plan to rebuild. For now, the clinic will operate in the Snoqualmie Valley Hospital clinic in North Bend. Phone numbers stay the same

“Long term, we want to stay here in Snoqualmie,” Doerfler said.

Apartment fire

The medical office blaze came just days after a fire broke out in a downtown Snoqualmie apartment building, destroying the contents of one apartment and damaging two others.

That fire happened just after noon Monday, Sept. 27, at an apartment in the 38500 block of Newton Street. It began when a 4-year-old was playing with matches and clothing in a closet.

His mother, grandmother and brother were at home, and were able to get everyone out safely. But the contents of the apartment were destroyed.

“They got out with the clothes on their backs,” Rowe said.

Heavy smoke and flames damaged adjacent apartments.

In all, the damage was estimated at $175,000.

“It’s been a bad week for fire loss in Snoqualmie,” Rowe said.

The American Red Cross will be providing assistance to six people affected by the apartment fire, including shelter, food, clothing and other immediate needs.

All Red Cross assistance is free. For more information about the Red Cross please go to www.seattleredcross.org.

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