A two-alarm fire ripped through two homes in the Sehome neighborhood Thursday morning, gutting one and damaging another.
No injuries were reported, said Assistant Chief Bill Hewett of the Bellingham Fire Department. No one was inside at the time of the 10:40 a.m. fire.
Neither home is habitable and eight Western Washington University students were displaced, Hewett said. Campus authorities and the local Red Cross were helping the students find clothing, housing and providing other assistance.
“The structure, it’s still standing, but the inside is gutted,” Hewett said of the house at 1017 Jersey St., where the fire apparently started in the downstairs kitchen. Flames spread to a neighboring home at 1019 Jersey St.
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Cause of the fire remains under investigation.
Flames quickly spread through the one-story home (1017) built in 1900. The fire apparently started in a daylight basement facing the alley that has been finished to accommodate a kitchen and living room, then spread upstairs to bedrooms on the first floor.
Resident Tej Wayne said he was working in an RV behind the house at 1017 Jersey and saw fire in the kitchen window.
“I ran up and kicked in the door,” he said. “Smoke came billowing out. It was all smoke and too hot to go inside.”
Wayne said he ran uphill to the front of the house and kicked in that door, hollering for people the get out.
Fire roared through the house and jumped across to a first-floor bedroom at 1019 Jersey St., which also has a finished daylight basement. Both homes are owned by David Hansen of Bellingham and managed by Lakeway Realty, Hansen said.
Most recent Whatcom County assessments show their value at $182,000 and $190,000.
None of the students carried rental insurance, said Julia Burns, coordinator for the Campus Community Coalition at WWU.
Burns was on her way to campus when she saw the fire and remained nearby to meet with students as word of the fire reached residents. Burns was working with the Office of the Dean of Students to make accommodations for student classwork and make sure they all had a place to live.
Cadian Molumby, a fourth-year environmental studies major from Seattle, said he left the house at 1017 Jersey about an hour before the fire and nothing seemed amiss.
He said he’d be able to live with neighbors temporarily, but that he was most saddened at the loss of several musical instruments in the home where he and his roommates jammed together frequently.
“My friend sent me a photo and said, ‘Your house is on fire,’” Molumby said. “I had a 1958 tenor guitar – yeah, I’m most upset about the instruments. There was a piano, guitars, violin, sax,” in addition to amps and other equipment, he said.
Julia Liddane, a second-year student from Seattle who lived at 1019 Jersey, said firefighters brought her laptop outside undamaged. Her three roommates lost clothes, electronics and other belongings to heat and water damage, she said.
It was an intensely hot fire with heavy smoke, Hewett said, and firefighters sprayed water from the outside before moving inside. Fire in the house at 1019 Jersey was contained to a room on the first floor, which looks like a second story from the alley side of the building.
A second alarm was sounded, bringing extra firefighters to assist, including an engine from South Whatcom Fire Authority.
The Bellingham Herald reporter Robert Mittendorf is a volunteer firefighter with South Whatcom Fire Authority.