The Olympian (Olympia, Wash.)
The former Olympia Brewing Co., which has sat inactive for 15 years, was dealt a new blow early Monday morning when fire destroyed the south side of a brewery office building on Custer Way.
Other buildings located above Tumwater Falls or east of Capitol Way were not damaged, nor were those north of Custer Way and below the falls where the historic brick brewhouse is.
Fire crews were still on scene Monday afternoon — and are expected to remain there overnight Tuesday. Custer Way between Capitol Boulevard and Second Avenue was still closed late Monday afternoon, causing traffic backups.
A report of smoke in the area came in about 2 a.m., Tumwater Fire Chief Scott LaVielle said.
Fire crews discovered an active commercial fire, he said., and other fire crews were called in to help. At full strength, about 50 firefighters fought the blaze, but defensively, he said, because the roof on the south side of the building collapsed and buried the main floor in debris.
On Monday, no one was thought to have been hurt in the fire, although fire crews had yet to do a thorough check of the fire-damaged building. The fire is under investigation, LaVielle said.
“Anytime you have an empty building you worry about the possibility of fire,” LaVielle said.
The owner of the brewery property south of Custer Way and east across Capitol Boulevard is Tumwater Development LLC of Anaheim, California. They have owned the property for two years, but nothing of significance has happened in that time, Tumwater Mayor Pete Kmet said Monday during a visit to the site.
Tumwater Development LLC, whose primary member is Chandulal Patel of Southern California, paid $4 million for four brewery parcels at the end of December 2015. Patel is a real estate investor and developer who splits his time between Southern California and India.
LaVielle said they hope to get the owners and an insurance adjuster on site to come up with a plan about next steps. A contractor is expected to remove debris, Tumwater spokeswoman Ann Cook said.
Kmet expressed frustration about the owner of the property not doing more to control access to it, saying the property is frequently the target of vandals.
“Just basically trashing the interior,” he said.
“I’m frustrated that nothing has happened here and the community is frustrated,” he said. “That has to change. We have to see if we can get the owner to do something, or sell it to someone who is willing to do something.”
He said the city was in contact with the owner on Monday, exchanging information about the fire. He acknowledged that the owner also is frustrated by the difficulty in controlling access to the property. Prior to the fire, a fence had been erected around the perimeter and a security guard keeps watch on the 1 million square feet of commercial space.
“There are all these opportunities to get into the place and it’s very hard to control,” Kmet said.
Kmet said the city is going to step up conversations about controlling access to the property, and actively engage the owners about redevelopment.
“We can’t seem to get past go with the new owner,” he said.
Meanwhile, the state Department of Ecology monitored the effects of the fire on the Deschutes River water quality, and said via social media that “water quality looked good.”
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