Tumwater Brewery Fire


Paul Medrud, Editor

October was set off with a blaze when the Tumwater Brewery suddenly burst into flames in the middle of the night on October 8th 2018, City Officials and Firefighters put out the blaze but at what cost? The future of Brewery development is in jeopardy after this event, with the hopes of a new business and other developments being put on hold until this disaster is cleaned up, with the cause of the fire being currently unknown, what will the City of Tumwater do?

The brewery has been a hot spot for decades, with many people purchasing the former brewery for development, which ended up leading to nothing, they needed someone to be able to purchase the brewery and turn it into many different ideas, a mall, a museum. But all those ideas were put to a halt recently when the office complex section of the brewery suddenly caught ablaze, the section of the building that caught fire suspiciously didn’t have electricity. After the fire, the question is that most people in the City of Olympia are thinking, What Next?

The biggest deal that the City of Tumwater is dealing with is “How do we talk with the Property Owners?” As City of Tumwater Fire Chief Scott Lavielle explains “Well, initially we had some challenges because the owners are out of town because they live in California, and because they had tough coordination between us, but the city provided resources to make sure that they turn the fire scene back over to them” A lack of communication tough especially after a fire, and when there are thousands of miles away that means that communication and even getting the owners over there is tough.

The question that most people have on their mind is about the fire itself, Scott can answer the first part, telling how the fire happened “It took them awhile to get things under control, it started as a smoke investigation because someone reported smoke, and they sent one engine because they get smoke investigations a lot of the time and unless they get eyes on the scene and someone can see it, the 9/11 operator only sent on, and they arrived to the back and saw flames coming from the south side of the building. They called in a full structure response, a ladder truck and 4 additional engines and so the first officer decided to suppressing activities and attached to the hydrant and started pulling water from the ground level on the fire, and as the additional engines appeared the roof collapsed, and the put 1.5 million gallons of water on the fire, it took 2 hours to get the fire under control, and then it took a lot of management to get rid of the hidden fires and debris to get rid of and they had to do what they could on the areas underneath.

And it took extra days to deal with the smoke and the hidden areas” To answer the second half, Tumwater Mayor Peter Kmet says “My primary goal remains getting these properties redeveloped consistent with the community visioning as reflected in our comprehensive plan and zoning.  We will continue to work with the owners to connect them with individuals with an interest in leasing space or buying the property. In the interim, we will use the City’s enforcement authority to reduce nuisance conditions.” also saying “The City has issued a notice requiring the owner to secure the property and remove the parts of the building damaged by the fire. They have also been ordered to secure the building to reduce the risk of future vandalism and damage. The owner has indicated they will comply.”

Most older residents of Olympia remember the history of the brewery and the large influence that it had over their lives, possibly working there as a teenager or adult. Because of that people worried that it was set on fire on purpose, similar to a previous fire earlier at a Jehovah witness that was burned down by an arsonist. Scott disspells these rumors, saying “We don’t want anyone to have any fears about it, when you go in and investigate a fire, you want to rule things out, “if it has electricity, natural gas, is it burning like it has an accelerator.” What does it cause? We ruled out that they didn’t have electricity, natural gas we were aware that people were coming and going for shelter, people were doing things. The conclusion from how it was burning and the lining on the wood structures, there wasn’t anything from fuel fires on the wood patterns, there wasn’t any smells for flammable liquids. The only conclusion was that it was most likely set by people trying to cook, and they found no connection to the arsonist at the Jehovas witness place”

In this time of development limbo, Peter Kmet says “I often give interested residents an update on the brewery and would be happy to do so for OHS students.” It’s going to be a long time before we change the brewery for the better, but we can only hope that it’ll be successful in the future.