Historic Oyster House in Olympia gutted by fire

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OLYMPIA, Wash. - The Oyster House along the waterfront in Olympia was gutted by fire early Friday morning.  Smoke was first seen coming from the long-time restaurant on 4th Avenue West after midnight. 

When Olympia firefighters went inside, flames forced them back out to fight the fire defensively.  

The fire grew so quickly, firefighters called a second alarm almost immediately, bringing backup from nearby departments such as Tumwater and Olympia.

The fire tore through timbers that were  decades old.  The ceiling collapsed. 

See photos of the fire here  and photos of the aftermath here.

One firefighter was treated for a burn to the wrist.

The restaurant had closed at 10:30 p.m., and no one was inside at the time of the fire.

Before firefighters could search for what caused the fire, part of the walls had to be taken down. They were in danger of collapsing.  The focus of their investigation will be in the restaurant's kitchen. 

All morning long, customers stopped by to snap pictures where lawmakers and governors have dined.

The owner, Tom Barrett, vowed to rebuild. 

"It's devastating, but we do have insurance, so we'll put it back together and try to make it better than it was before.  That's all I can say.  That's just the way it's going to have to be," said Barrett.

Employee Leah Flinn said she and her coworkers would pull together to try to cope.

The historic Oyster House dubs itself the oldest seafood restaurant in Washington state.  The building has served on and off as a restaurant since 1924.

Barrett was expecting large crowds during this weekend's Capital Lake Fair. 

On the day his business was destroyed Barrett helped his community. He donated all the food in his coolers that survived the fire to the Thurston County Food Bank. A van showed up mid-afternoon to load up produce and other food items. 

Food Bank manager Kelsey Hulse said, "The fact that they thought of us in the midst of all this is really remarkable and we really do appreciate it."

Olympia fire investigators say they will likely be bringing in a crane on Tuesday to lift some of the charred wreckage out of the kitchen area of the Oyster House so they can try and determine exactly who the fire started.