BELLINGHAM - Firefighters rescued an elderly Bellingham man from an Elm Street home that was filling with smoke Tuesday night, Jan. 15.
A fire in the bathroom at 2724 Elm St. set off a monitored fire alarm just outside the man's bedroom door at 8:30 p.m., said Bellingham Fire Marshal Jason Napier. Neighbors said the homeowner - a man in his 70s - was still inside.
Firefighters rushed to his bedroom, roused the man and helped him to walk out of the house. He was taken by ambulance to St. Joseph hospital for treatment of possible smoke inhalation.
The homeowner told firefighters he had been smoking in the bathroom earlier in the evening. An ember might have fallen into the trash can when he ashed his cigarette.
Napier labeled the official cause of the fire as "careless smoking." He noted smoke from the fire almost spread to the man's bedroom while he slept, but the door was closed.
"If it hadn't been, he probably would have perished," Napier said.
Most of the damage to the home was contained to the bathroom, where flames rolled along a wall and into the ceiling. Some smoke damage repairs might be needed before the house can be lived in again, said Bellingham Fire Chief Roger Christensen.
The "hero" of the rescue, he added, was the smoke alarm. Without it, firefighters might not have responded until it was too late.
"A few more minutes would have made a huge difference," Christensen said. "It's very lucky that it didn't end in catastrophe."