Firefighters Rescue Woman From Apartment Complex Fire in Rochester on Sunday 


When fire crews responded to a well-involved structure fire on Bend Street in downtown Rochester just before 3:50 a.m. on Sunday, they were told the apartment building they were trying to extinguish was unoccupied. 

It was only when firefighters did a primary search of the four-story apartment complex that they learned the initial report was wrong: one person had sheltered inside of the bathroom of an apartment on the second floor. 

“You train for the worst case scenario and a situation like we discovered was one of those worst case scenarios where you actually discovered (a) victim while you're fighting the fire,” said Operations Chief Robert Scott of West Thurston Regional Fire Authority.

West Thurston responded to the fire Sunday alongside crews with Riverside Regional Fire Authority, Grays Harbor Fire District 1, South Thurston Fire and East Olympia Fire. 

The woman was unconscious when firefighters reached her, but they were able to immediately take her outside while other crews worked to extinguish the fire. Paramedics treated her at the scene before she was transported to Providence St. Peter Hospital for further treatment. 

“Luckily, we had enough crews there that night that while they were rescuing the victim, another crew was able to finish extinguishing the fire to keep it from getting any worse and to make it tenable so they could get the victim out of the bathroom,” Scott said. 

The incident commander for Sunday’s response, West Thurston Fire Captain Brian Christenson, said the last time he was involved in a situation where crews found and rescued a living victim from a well-involved structure fire was in the ‘90s. 

“It’s a real unicorn-type situation,” Christenson said. “Being on the scene (Sunday), it amazed me how fast that the crews worked and how seamless it was from taking them out of the building to transferring them to the medics who rendered care and continuing to keep the mission going forward, putting the fire out and searching for more people.” 

Even though finding an unknown victim inside a building while crews are fighting a fire isn’t common, firefighters are still trained to search every room for people who may be hiding in hard-to-reach places, Scott said. 

“That's a common thing that we see or we've heard about with people in fires. If they can’t go out or escape, they're going to try to find the most secure place they can,” Scott explained. “We teach our firefighters, when they do search and rescues, to look under beds and in closets and that type of thing.” 

No other people were found inside of the building and no other injuries were reported in Sunday’s fire. However, a couple of cats perished and multiple families were displaced, according to Scott. 

The property owner did have places for some of the displaced families to stay, according to Christenson, and others were referred to the Red Cross for aid. 

The cause of the fire was still under investigation as of Monday morning.