Business

Bellingham manufacturing facility quickly bounces back from devastating arson fire

Fire damaged its Bellingham warehouse, but this company wants to stay in business

Blue Sea Systems, a Bellingham company that makes electrical parts for boats, plans to stay in business after a two-alarm weekend fire heavily damaged its warehouse in the Cordata neighborhood.
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Blue Sea Systems, a Bellingham company that makes electrical parts for boats, plans to stay in business after a two-alarm weekend fire heavily damaged its warehouse in the Cordata neighborhood.

It took less than a year for a manufacturer to bounce back from a destructive fire, thanks in part to support from the local community.

Blue Sea Systems announced in a news release that it has returned to full production at its new facility at 4600 Ryzex Way, north of Whatcom Community College. The company makes electrical components for the marine industry.

The new facility is near its original location, which was destroyed by a fire last November. The company also lost $3 million in inventory.

In March Craig Stuart Wise was convicted of first-degree arson for starting the fire and is spending a little more than two years in prison.

The current space is about the same size as the one on 425 Sequoia Drive and is intended to be a long-term solution for the company, said Lee Gordon, spokesman for the company, in an email.

Getting about 75 employees back to work in less than a year took not only hard work from employees, but from families and people in the Bellingham community.

“The industry and community support were overwhelming,” said Dave Johnson, senior vice president of Blue Sea Systems in the news release. “We received emails and phone calls from customers, suppliers and even competitors asking if they could help. Even though the fire was a tragic event, it helped us all remember how grateful we are to work in such a supportive industry.”

Several local companies, including Allsop and Lithtex NW, helped Blue Sea get going again, according to the news release.

While waiting to come back to work, Blue Sea employees continued to receive paychecks and health benefits, Gordon said.

For the employees the process was overwhelming at times, but the end result was positive, said Kelli Teichman, a 17-year employee.

“It was very emotional to realize how close we had all become through this — not just working together as a team, but really caring about each other and each other’s well-being. I think we realized in that moment that we were family,” Teichman said in the release.

Blue Sea Systems was locally owned until 2014, when it was acquired by Power Products LLC, which is based in Wisconsin.

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Dave Gallagher has covered the Whatcom County business community since 1998. Retail, real estate, jobs and port redevelopment are among the topics he covers.
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