Shop fire latest concern for neighbors of 'meth mansion' in Vanc - KPTV - FOX 12

Shop fire latest concern for neighbors of 'meth mansion' in Vancouver

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VANCOUVER, WA (KPTV) -

Investigators are trying to figure out what caused a massive shop fire in Vancouver Thursday morning, and Clark County Code Enforcement is now joining the investigation.

The property is right next to Covington Middle School and has been an issue with neighbors and parents before. It is riddled with sheds and garbage, all surrounding a condemned home.

The Vancouver Fire Department responded to the scene at Northeast 112th Avenue and Fourth Plain Boulevard around 3:15 a.m. Neighbors said 20-foot flames could be seen coming through the roof of the building.

Some are calling the fire the last straw, and at least a dozen people told FOX 12 Thursday that they are frustrated by the activity that goes on the property.

Neighbors, deputies, local workers all call the property “the meth mansion" and Thursday’s flames only fueled their anger

“It's terrible. It's terrible. You never know what's going to be going on over here, or whether or not the house is going to explode," parent Sheri Douglas said. "It's the people. The eyesore, you know, you can bulldoze it. They need to get rid of them."

They worry about drugs and prostitution, adding that police and Code Enforcement officials need to step up to address their concerns.

Meanwhile, the fire investigation was continuing Thursday afternoon, and officials said they don't yet know if the early morning blaze was suspicious or not.

The shop fire luckily left no one injured, despite the fact that two people were living inside the building at the time. Investigators said the two people in the shop at the time of the fire left the scene and are currently sought for questioning.

Property records show numerous people are associated with the home.

Last year the homeowner, William Rathgeber, and his son, Allen Vandemarr, were arrested on charges related to having meth and selling drugs.

Rathgeber was then arrested again in November while out on bail from that earlier arrest, this time on 13 felony charges, including possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver, possession of methamphetamine, unlawful possession of a firearm, possession of stolen firearms and maintaining a drug house.

Vandemarr spent time in jail but was back at his home Thursday morning and wanted to share his side of the story.

"No, we don't make drugs here. I'm against that type of stuff,” he told FOX 12. “I'd break bones if I found out somebody was making drugs on my property."

Vandemarr said his soft heart would lead him to allow homeless people to stay on the property. He blames the junk on his family's problem with hoarding, but he's adamant things will change.

"Hopefully I can get some help cleaning stuff up," he added.

The clock is ticking for the property, though. Code Enforcement officials said the property is the most complained about home in all of Clark County, and they've been coming out to address complaints for about three years.

They say they've fined the owners, put leans on the property and are working on getting an injunction, noting that the property owners have until 2018 to clean up the mess.

Still, the neighbors frustrated by the process said they hope the fire will be a game-changer, with Douglas being very clear with her hope for closure on the issue.

"Hopefully this will get the place torn down."

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