The Yakima Fire Department was called to the fire at 1:42 p.m. Monday, according to a news release. It damaged the Greenway office building and destroyed a storage building, along with playground equipment at the park.
Firefighters were on the scene until 8:48 p.m. Monday and returned to the area Tuesday to extinguish a few spot fires along the Greenway that ignited from Monday, the news release said.
The estimated loss is $200,000 and the cause is under investigation. No injuries were reported. Aiding Yakima city firefighters were Yakima County Fire District No. 5 and Kittitas Valley Fire and Rescue.
It’s believed the fire began midway between the Greenway path and the Yakima River, the release said. The blaze spread due to high winds from the east — gusting winds spurred fires throughout Washington and Oregon on Tuesday — and dry brush in the area.
“They have’t figured out where it started exactly, but somewhere toward the Terrace Heights bridge,” said Kellie Connaughton, executive director of the Greenway. “And with the high winds it moved along rapidly through trees and brush along the Yakima River, probably a quarter of a mile along the Yakima River and the pathway.
“When the fire department got here, there were spot fires at the Greenway office. Those embers were blowing through the park. Embers landed in a dumpster, which caught on fire. Those embers fell into playground area,” and fueled by its cedar chips, flames quickly engulfed the playground equipment, Connaughton said.
Early in the evening, someone noticed the back of the Greenway office was on fire. That wooden building had been donated and moved to the site when Sarg Hubbard Park was built in phases from 1987 through 1990.
“They were working hard,” Connaughton said of firefighters. “They were on top of the building, trying to fight the fire. The embers got into an outside vent and ignited the flooring in the building.
“I don’t think the (office) is a complete loss. I think it will be some time before we’re able to get back in. It could have been a lot worse but it wasn’t, thanks to our fire personnel here.”
Besides saving the Greenway’s office, firefighters were able to protect a nearby hotel, two pavilion buildings, a footbridge and a railroad display.
What everybody is really concerned about, Connaughton said, is the playground at Sarg Hubbard Park.
“The playground will get replaced. I don’t know when and I don’t know what that will look like,” she said. “The playground isn’t going away; this is too important. But we need to replace some aging infrastructure.”
On another note, Greenway officials are working with Yakima Rotary clubs on the design of a new Sunrise Rotary Park McGuire Community Playground, a popular destination on the Greenway. The elaborate wooden structure was built in 1994 by many community volunteers and dedicated on May 15, 1994.
Yakima’s three Rotary clubs have raised funds for the new playground and construction is planned for May 2021.
Even as some Greenway staff have been working remotely during the coronavirus pandemic, the Greenway and Sarg Hubbard Park “have been busier than they have ever been,” Connaughton said.
“The staff is working hard,” she said.