2 dogs killed, cat rescued in Ridgefield houseboat fire

RIDGEFIELD, Wash. -- Two dogs were killed and one cat was rescued in a houseboat fire on Friday morning on Ridgefield's waterfront.

The response shouldn't have been so difficult.

Calls came at about 11:30 a.m. of flames coming from a floating home on Lake River, south of the Port of Ridgefield.

The problem: firefighters who were just three blocks from the blaze were stalled for five minutes as they waited for a BNSF train to pass on the railroad tracks, said Tim Dawdy, a spokesman for Clark County Fire and Rescue.

Capt. Abe Rommel was among the fire officials trying to get to the floating home. He said the train was barely moving on the tracks while the fire truck was stuck waiting.

The road used by firefighter is the only one into this part of the small town, where about 100 people live. Fire officials don't know if they would have been able to save the two pets, but believe they might have had a chance.

When fire officials arrived, the fire was fully involved on the second story of the houseboat, Dawdy said.

No one was at home. Two dogs were killed; firefighters were able to rescue a cat.

"We train for these (floating home fires) a lot. They are more complex than you would realize because of nearby floating homes," Dawdy said. "We bring in a rescue boat in case anyone ends up in the water."

Dawdy said approximately 70 trains pass the tracks on a given day. It's not a new issue for the city of Ridgefield.

"It's stopped people from going to fires, police calls," he said. "It's really hard to have a community cut in half by railroad tracks like that."

In fact, the Port of Ridgefield officials say they're trying to come up with a plan with the city, possibly an overpass to divert traffic around the tracks. Crucial funding, however, is hard to come by, officials say.