Just before dawn Monday, Appelo's Grays River store building was destroyed by fire. Fire crews were called at about 7 a.m., but were unable to save the two-story wooden building that had been built around the turn of the century.
The store and contents were a total loss according to Steve Appelo. Mop-up operations continued throughout the day Monday as crews put out hot spots in the remains of the 100-year-old frame structure.
"There were building supplies, some antiques and family items stored in the Grays River store," Appelo explained. "All of the photographs and paper archives Carlton (Appelo) has are no longer stored in the building, so they are safe."
Carlton Appelo was in Florida for the National Finn Festival and unavailable for comment at press time. The earliest photo of the Grays River landmark building is from 1912 when the structure housed the Ferndale Creamery. From 1929 until 1934 the upper story of the building was home for the local telephone company switchboard, according to Steve Appelo.
C.R. Appelo (Steve's grandfather and Carlton's father) purchased the building in 1934. The family operated Appelo's Red and White General Merchandise Store from 1934 until the late 1980s, serving the needs of the Grays River area for more than 50 years.
Pacific County Fire Protection District 1 Chief Thomas O'Donohue happened upon the blaze by accident Monday morning and offered his assistance with the fire.
"They were very happy when I walked up," O'Donohue said. "I put my arm around (incident commander) Cindy Johnson, told her to take a deep breath and said 'Let's put it out.' This is an old building and it will burn to the ground. Let's do it safely."
Johnson, whose husband Mike is chief of the small department, was thrilled by the offer of assistance," O'Donohue said. "I didn't want to step on anybody's toes. I gave them advice about what hoses to put where and asked them to move their engine away from the fire. I stayed at the scene for about an hour. Their department is to be commended for being willing to have help. Their attention to firefighter safety was good and they wore proper protective gear. For the small number of fires they have to fight in the area, the community is lucky to have them. I heard many people at the scene say 'This is my first fire.' They did a wonderful job."
There was no estimate yet on the amount of damage and no word as to what will now be done with the property. The cause was yet to be determined.
"At least there is a silver lining in that no one was injured," Steve Appelo said Monday afternoon.