FERNDALE Seven adults and two children lost their homes in a fire at a mobile home park late Thursday, June 6, in north Ferndale.
From across the mobile home park, B.J. Childs, the property manager at 6165 Portal Way, could see an orange glow above Unit 11 at 11:20 p.m. Childs ran over to find both residents had escaped unharmed from the 52-by-10-foot home. The smell of heavy smoke awakened them.
But their neighbors at Unit 10, a powder-blue singlewide, remained oblivious to the flames lapping their walls until the manager barged in to rouse them. He rushed to the back of the house, where two girls slept. He woke them up and escorted them to the exit.
Thats when the window exploded, Childs said. He felt a burst of heat on the back of his neck, he said. But he wasnt hurt, and neither were the girls.
Ryan LeCocq, a computer repairman who lives in Unit 12, heard crackling outside his door, like the start of a rainstorm, he said. A quick glance outside revealed the danger he and his roommate were in.
I dont know what kind of insulation is in that home, LeCocq said. But Ive never seen anything go up that quickly.
Firefighters and residents doused nearby sheds and homes to keep the flames from spreading.
It was a lot of quick thinking by the right people at the right time, Childs said.
It took five fire engines and 25 firefighters, from three fire districts, to combat the flames. They extinguished it in about three hours.
Unit 11 burned to almost nothing. The neighboring units lost strips of their outer walls, which seemed to have been scraped off. Onlookers could peer in and see a kitchen table still surrounded by chairs, untouched.
None of the three residences are habitable. The county assessors office lists the total value of the properties at $24,600.
Investigators suspect cigarette smoking on a back deck at Unit 11 started the fire. The couple often dropped cigarette butts in a bucket of water outside, said Whatcom County Fire District 7 Chief Gary Russell.
No smoke alarms were found in the home, Russell added.
The Mt. Baker Chapter of the American Red Cross offered to help the families in their long-term recovery from the fire. For now, theyve been offered hotel rooms to stay in.
Back in December 2004, a mobile home occupying Unit 12 burned to the ground in an early morning fire. Childs helped to move in the replacement singlewide home. But the power lines overhanging that parcel were never replaced, Childs said. They remained partly melted until last night when they snapped from the heat and flopped onto the gravel driveway.