LUMMI RESERVATION - A power strip cord crushed under a couch sparked a fire that destroyed a man's house Wednesday morning, March 26, firefighters said.
Neighbors saw thick smoke billowing from the home behind the Shaker Church in the 4000 block of Lummi Shore Road, around 10:45 a.m. The first fire engine reached the scene in five minutes, but by then flames had shattered the front windows, said Bellingham Assistant Fire Chief Bill Hewett.
Other windows of the wood-frame home had been boarded up with plywood, delaying how long it took for people to notice the smoke, he said.
Fire spread to every room of the one-story, off-white home. After beating down the most intense flames, firefighters rushed inside and searched for the only resident, a middle-age man, but couldn't find him. They later learned he had left earlier in the morning.
Firetrucks from Ferndale, Marietta and Sandy Point responded to help. It took about an hour to extinguish the fire.
Mitch Nolze, an investigators with the Whatcom County Fire Marshal's Office, said the fire started in the living room - the most thoroughly burnt space in the estimated 1,200-square-foot house - because of a damaged, likely arcing power strip under a couch. The strip powered a refrigerator.
"If you're using power strips," Hewett said, "it's really important to put them in places that are open and ventilated."
The fire is considered an accident. No one was hurt.
Authorities didn't have a damage estimate Wednesday. The home and the land, just south of Northwest Indian College, are owned by the Lummi tribe.