Our Past | 1984: Fire destroys Waterville restaurant

Selected by Karen Larsen

The following excerpts from the Dec. 6, 1984 edition of the Waterville Empire Press describe a fire that destroyed a restaurant in an historic wooden building on Waterville’s Main Street.

 

Dodge House Restaurant Gutted by Early Morning Fire

Fire gutted the Dodge House Restaurant early Tuesday morning, destroying one of Waterville’s two eating and gathering places.

Waterville Fire Chief George “Doc” Hill said he received the alarm on his monitor about 4 a.m. Tuesday.

“When we got to the scene of the fire there was no visible flame but a lot of smoke,” Hill said. “The smoke had compressed enough it was pouring out of every place, front and back. It had built up a lot of pressure for a long time.”

Hill said by the time the volunteer firefighters had hooked up the hoses, the flames had vented through the middle of the roof.

About 18 firefighters plus some other volunteers braved the zero degree weather to fight the blaze.

“We had it knocked down pretty good by 10 a.m.,” Hill said.

Hill said the severe cold was a problem for the men, but “once you get a crust of ice on you, you can stay pretty warm.”

Hill said that as long as there was water running through the hoses, they were okay but the men did have a problem with gauges on the truck freezing up.

Roy and Starlet Holman are the owners of the Dodge House.

Hill said the investigation could take some time because of the distance involved and because of the cold, freezing weather.

“These fires always happen when it’s cold,” Hill said. “They don’t happen in warm weather for some reason.”

Hill added that when he heard over the radio there was smoke coming out of the Dodge House, he didn’t have a good feeling.

He said this was the worst fire in Waterville in several years. The other bad fires also happened in freezing cold weather, he added.

The fire might have gone even longer had not Rick Westerman been returning home from Chelan.

He came into Waterville about 3:40 a.m. and saw smoke. “At first I thought it was fog,” he said.

Rick dialed the 911 emergency dispatch on the pay phone by the old Rainier Bank building.

“I called at right around 3:45,” Rick said. He said the pager went off in town but not the siren until Carl Koenig arrived at the scene about 3:50 a.m.

The business employed between nine and 13 people.