BELLINGHAM - A fire burning in a large debris pile in northeast Bellingham spread smoke along Interstate 5 and throughout downtown Monday, Oct. 8, according to the Bellingham Fire Department.
The fire at Northwest Chipping and Grinding, 4243 Hannegan Road, was reported at about 12:30 a.m. Monday. Firefighters found a burning wood pile that was 16 feet high, 100 feet long and 150 feet wide.
Water tenders were requested from Fire District 7 and North Whatcom Fire and Rescue to provide enough water to douse the wood. The business owner also called in heavy equipment operators to begin tearing apart the pile to reach the smoldering sections.
The Bellingham Fire Department, Whatcom Unified Emergency Management and Northwest Chipping worked together to manage the fire, which was buried deep inside a pile of land-clearing debris awaiting chipping.
Though crews at one point feared that the fire might smolder for days, they were able to put it out by 4 p.m. Smoke hung in the stagnant air over downtown until winds picked up in the afternoon, when the pile was putting out minimal smoke.
The Northwest Clean Air Agency was notified about the fire Monday morning and was keeping in touch with the Bellingham Fire Department throughout the day, Director Mark Asmundson said.
Someone from the agency will go to Northwest Chipping after the fire department is done working to see if there's any need for further investigation. If the fire proves to have been reasonably preventable, the business could get fined. But Asmundson said that the odds were low that the agency would take any action, considering the dry conditions that have put the state at a higher risk for fires recently.
Northwest Chipping co-owner Robin Hitz said that the pile was in the company's grinding yard, away from any structures or equipment. The fire marshal is investigating what caused the fire.
St. Joseph hospital was notified about the smoke Monday morning so that it could control its ventilation system manually to help keep the hospital atmosphere clear.
People with chronic medical conditions or smoke sensitivity were advised to stay indoors with windows closed.
Fire crews were able to leave the scene, but the company planned to maintain a watch through the night to make sure the fire didn't flare back up.
OUTDOOR BURNING BANNED
The Whatcom County Fire Marshal's Office banned all outdoor burning starting at 4 p.m. Monday, Oct. 8, as part of a statewide burn ban enacted by Gov. Chris Gregoire. The ban includes yard and land-clearing fires and recreational fires on personal and county property. This ban will continue until further notice. Burning is banned on state property until midnight Oct. 15.
For questions about burning, call the Whatcom County Fire Marshal's Office at 360-676-6907.