By Laura Brown

Triplicate staff writer

A fire causing thick black smoke to fill the Escape Hatch on 3rd Street occurred about 7:40 a.m. yesterday morning and crews from the police and volunteer fire departments responded.

We are pretty confident it was electrical and started the counter on fire, said Steve Wakefield, Fire Chief for the City of Crescent City. Wakefield said when he arrived at the scene the cash register counter was in flames.

Escape Hatch carries various name-brand shoes, sports apparel, bicycles, surfing and diving equipment.

From the street, smoke carrying the stench of burnt rubber and plastic filled the air. The shop windows looked dark and vacant but were actually blackened by a room filled with smoke. Alarm bells blared and siren lights flashed as firefighters quickly donned protective clothing, oxygen tanks and masks readying themselves to enter the building.

Firefighters then climbed onto the roof to discover it was drawn in due to a lack of oxygen. If entry was made through the front door, there was a risk of an explosion. After a hole was made through the roof with an ax, smoke rolled skyward and crews on the ground could then break a passage through the front glass door, place a large fan for circulation and enter with flashlights and hoses to extinguish the fire.

I think Chief Wakefield and his crew need to be commended for a job well done. They did everything right, said Don Brooks from California Department of Forestry.

The owner of the business arrived after the fire was put out and the smoked cleared and was assessing the damage but did not wish to comment. Firefighting crews stayed several hours investigating the cause of the fire which they believe to be an electrical outlet that failed.

The firefighters who responded to the scene are all volunteers and Wakefield said the reason they join is for the fun. We woke some of them up. Some came from work...some came from wherever, said Wakefield.