Bellingham house fire leaves 5 WWU students without a home


BELLINGHAM - A fire damaged a house in the 1100 block of North Garden Street Wednesday morning, Feb. 19, leaving five Western Washington University students without a home.

All but two of the women who live in the house were in class when the residents started to smell something "funky" and a little smoky at about 8 a.m., said Ashley Novak, who was in the house at the time.

The smell was strongest in the kitchen and was present on the second floor as well, and when it didn't go away after about half an hour, the residents called the fire department.

Shortly after Bellingham firefighters arrived at the home, acrid smoke started escaping from the roof. The residents were able to get out of the home safely.

Two engines and a ladder truck parked in front of the home, and firefighters used the ladder to cut into an attic and the roof with a chainsaw, shooting water inside. Those cuts were made to release smoke and heat to improve conditions in the home for firefighters trying to find and attack the fire, interim Fire Chief Bill Newbold said.

Garden Street was closed between Chestnut and Maple streets as firefighters fought and investigated the blaze.

The fire appears to have started in an empty space between the second story and the home's attic, though the source of the fire was still undetermined Wednesday afternoon, Newbold said. He thought the house sustained at least $50,000 in damages.

The house isn't livable until it gets repaired, and Newbold said the renters have friends and family in the area who are helping them out.

Reach Zoe Fraley at 360-756-2803 or

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