Yakima firefighters were called to the local VFW post early Weds., June 23 for a report of heavy black smoke coming from the roof.
Batallion Chief Castilleja immediately called a second alarm for mutual aid from neighboring communities. In all, five agencies and more than 40 firefighters were on scene at the height of the fire.
The building sustained heavy damage to the interior and contents, which included a collection of military artifacts dating back to World War I. Damages could exceed $1M due to the value of the memorabilia.
After two days of investigation, the cause was determined to be accidental. A rat had chewed through wiring to a jukebox. The wiring arced, igniting the rodent, which then fled to its nest two feet away in an old piano covered by a blanket. The nest contained a number of combustible materials as well as several feet of speaker wire for which the rat apparently had a fondness.
The VFW Post, home to 1,244 members, had recently celebrated its 90th anniversary.