Fundraising hope for Washougal business lost in fire

GoFundMe pages being used for donations to businesses affected by last month’s fire

WASHOUGAL — The scenario was one no business owner ever envisions happening to them. After midnight on Oct. 20, a rapidly growing fire was reported spreading through businesses in northern Washougal.

A comparison view of the interior of Racers Division is shown here. Prior to the fire, several cars and thousands of dollars of tools and supplies were stored inside. Photo courtesy of John Cooper
A comparison view of the interior of Racers Division is shown here. Prior to the fire, several cars and thousands of dollars of tools and supplies were stored inside. Photo courtesy of John Cooper

Originating from spontaneously combusted sheets inside Riverside Laundry, the fire quickly spread into adjoined businesses: Wanda Walker’s Massage and Bowenwork Clinic, Racers Division and Mike’s Tires. Losses have been estimated at as much as $150,000.  

A collage of photos taken shortly after the fire destroyed Wanda Walker’s Clinic. The clinic is adjoined to the same building as Racers Division and Riverside Laundry. Photo courtesy of Wanda Walker
A collage of photos taken shortly after the fire destroyed Wanda Walker’s Clinic. The clinic is adjoined to the same building as Racers Division and Riverside Laundry. Photo courtesy of Wanda Walker

The laundromat, clinic and Racer’s Division suffered the greatest damage, with at least the first two being deemed a total loss. GoFundMe pages have been set up for the clinic and Racer’s Division, with goals of raising money for new spaces and replacing lost equipment.

“We’ve been mostly focusing on damage control with the cars that were affected,” said Jared Cooper, owner of Racer Division. “[The shop] came to be as a hobby, labor of love kind of scenario. We do a lot of drift cars, and we work with people that have race cars.”  

Cooper and his wife started the shop five years ago, and have been in the current location for the past three years. Together, they work on high performance racing vehicles and perform advanced tuning in-shop. 

They remain open through the process of salvaging and working with the insurance company, but do not have a shop to work out of right now. Through a relationship with Xcessive Manufacturing in Beaverton, Cooper has been able to transfer his current vehicles to their facility. Mike’s Tires, which is the only affected business to remain open, has also donated garage space to Racers Division. 

Shown here is the underside of the roof inside Racers Division after the fire. The heat caused a collapse of the roof and several support beams. Photo courtesy of John Cooper
Shown here is the underside of the roof inside Racers Division after the fire. The heat caused a collapse of the roof and several support beams. Photo courtesy of John Cooper

“You put so much energy and sacrifice into building something, and then to have it just be gone like that is just kind of a shock,” Cooper said. “It’s not like we even started the fire. It’s a traumatic time to go through. We have such a great support base. Our clients have been amazing. Myself and my wife have been there for each other.”

During the fire, extreme heat caused a collapse of the metal roof and support beams. Combined with the water damage of putting the fire out, the collapse has destroyed many office computers, tuning equipment, a unique shop space heater, and caused exterior damage to the cars.

“We’re kind of past the grieving stage, if you will. It’s more of, ‘We’ve got to do a lot of work.’ So it’s just time management,” Cooper said. “We’re going to build the shop. That’s what we’re working towards. So we’re hoping we can do that in the next the next few years.”

At present, Jared and John Cooper, Jared’s brother, and Jared have raised $875 through their GoFundMe page. There is no limit on the amount that can accrue, and donations can be given as long as the page is active. 

The interior of Riverside Laundry after the fire was extinguished by the Camas-Washougal Fire Department is seen here. Photo courtesy of Camas-Washougal Fire Department
The interior of Riverside Laundry after the fire was extinguished by the Camas-Washougal Fire Department is seen here. Photo courtesy of Camas-Washougal Fire Department

The laundromat itself has closed permanently, and Wanda Walker’s Clinic is now looking to replace their large amount of lost or damaged equipment as well as the location. Several massage tables and chairs as well as furniture and foot bath modules were lost in the process. 

“This is devastating to our family to watch as something she [Walker] has worked so hard for has quite literally gone up in flames,” their GoFundMe statement reads. “We are scrambling trying to pull everything together to help her reestablish somewhere quickly and as painlessly as possible, but it’s never easy to handle situations like this.”

Currently, Courtney Renee McPherson, a family member of Walker, has raised $2,665 of their goal of $10,000 on behalf of Walker and her clinic through their GoFundMe page.

“It’s been kind of bittersweet, because you got the the shop situation and then it’s also … nice to see how people respond to that, how quick people have been to help,” Cooper said. “We’re very grateful for all the support that we’ve got. It’s been a big part of what has kept us going.”

If you would like to donate to either of the businesses, you can find their respective GoFundMe pages at Fundraiser for Racers Division or Fundraiser for Wanda Walker’s Clinic

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About The Author

Jacob Granneman is a filmmaker and writer from Clark County. He is a recent graduate of Washington State University’s Edward R. Murrow College, where he studied media production. He has produced documentary stories all over the Pacific Northwest and in Argentina. His passions range from loving people, to cinematography, to going on adventures in the most beautiful place on earth, i.e. his backyard. He lives with his wife in Vancouver, WA.

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