One dead in house fire near Ferndale


FERNDALE - Firefighters battling a two-story house fire on Rural Avenue off Slater Road late Wednesday, Jan. 1, found a body inside.

A Border Patrol agent in the area spotted the fire shortly before 10:30 p.m. and went to the house in the 4800 block of Rural, Whatcom County Fire District 7 Assistant Chief Larry Hoffman said. She banged on the door, but no one answered, so she called for fire response.

By the time firefighters arrived, flames had engulfed the house.

It was too dangerous to enter the home, and firefighters had no idea someone was inside. It wasn't until about midnight that a firefighter looking through a window spotted the body.

Firefighters removed the body and sent it to the medical examiner's office for identification and an autopsy, which was set for 8 a.m. Friday.

Authorities couldn't confirm the identity of the victim Thursday because the body was badly damaged by fire.

Firefighters from Fire Districts 7 and 8, along with North Whatcom Fire and Rescue, continued to battle the fire through Wednesday night. Firefighters put as much water on the house as they could, but water had to be trucked in because there were no nearby hydrants.

District 7 firefighters from Ferndale were still on scene in the Thursday daylight putting out small fires. The house was destroyed.

Firefighters did not enter the home Thursday morning because the damage to the floor over the basement was so severe the structure was unstable.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. The Ferndale Police Department is the lead agency for the investigation, with help from the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office, fire marshal's office, the Bellingham Fire Department and Skagit County arson investigators. Ferndale Police Lt. Bill Hatchett said there was no indication so far that the fire was purposefully started.

Reach Zoe Fraley at or 360-756-2803. Read the School Days Blog at or get updates on Twitter at @bhamschools.

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