Quick action by firefighters saved a home in the Geneva area of Bellingham on Sunday morning, March 24.
Fire started in the chimney of the single-story, split-level home at 1090 Cedar Hills Ave., said Will Anderson, Whatcom County fire investigator. The sole occupant, a renter, was awakened by a smoke alarm and discovered the house was filled with smoke, Anderson said.
He ran outside and dialed 911 about 6:50 a.m. Sunday.
Firefighters from South Whatcom Fire Authority's nearby Station 21 arrived within minutes and immediately pulled hoses to the front door, containing the flames to the first-floor living room. Dark gray smoke poured from the eaves around the entire home, according to an initial radio report from the officer of Engine 21.
"It was a very timely stop," said South Whatcom Fire's Chief Dave Ralston. "Another five minutes and it would've been a different story."
Flames spread from the chimney into the wall facing the backyard, burning through the eaves and licking over the roof. Anderson said flames burned though floor joists of the living room and into the basement ceiling, threatening a collapse that would have spread the fire.
Ralston said three engine companies and additional vehicles were dispatched, for a total of 18 firefighters at the scene. The fire was reported "tapped," or under control, within 10 minutes of dispatch.
Firefighters remained for nearly two hours, tearing sheetrock and pulling insulation to make sure flames hadn't spread into the attic area or other parts of the home.
Damage was about $50,000 to the home and its contents, Anderson said, with fire and other damage mostly contained to the living room and smoke and water damage in the basement of the four-bedroom 2,000-square foot home.
Ralston said a couple and their two children who rented the house were not home Sunday. He said the Red Cross would be assisting that family and the other renter.
ROBERT MITTENDORF is a Herald copy editor and page designer. Reach him at 360-756-2805 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.