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Fire hits Corry’s dry cleaning, Cosmic Comics; what caused it?

See the fire and damage it caused at a Bellingham comics store

A fire that may have been deliberately set damaged Cosmic Comics and Corry's Fine Dry Cleaning early Monday, Sept. 26.
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A fire that may have been deliberately set damaged Cosmic Comics and Corry's Fine Dry Cleaning early Monday, Sept. 26.

Fire damaged Cosmic Comics and Corry’s Fine Dry Cleaning just before 1 a.m. Monday, Sept. 26, closing both businesses at least for one day.

Fire started in a rear alcove at the comic store, 1905 Cornwall Ave., burned up the side of the building and into a first floor apartment off the alley, said Assistant Chief Bill Hewett of the Bellingham Fire Department. Cosmic Comics’ building wraps around Corry’s at the corner of Cornwall Avenue and Halleck Street, across from Bellingham High School.

One occupant of the ground floor apartment got out safely, and no injuries were reported, Hewett said.

Given the time of day and where the other fires started, an intentionally set fire is on our list of things to rule out.

Assistant Chief Bill Hewett, Bellingham Fire Department

“Engine 1’s crew did a great job, pretty much stopped the fire right there,” Hewett said. “It certainly could have had devastating results to a couple of businesses.”

Hewett stopped short of calling the fire arson, but he said investigators are looking hard at the blaze and at other recent fires downtown. Arson fires were reported Wednesday, Sept. 14, and Tuesday, July 5. Both instances involved vehicles that were torched overnight. WorkSource Whatcom was damaged by an arson fire Sunday, Sept. 18, but a suspect has been arrested in that case.

Several similar fires have not been labeled arson because there were other possible causes, Hewett said.

“Given the time of day and where the other fires started, an intentionally set fire is on our list of things to rule out,” Hewett said.

Neighbor Tom Hubbell was awakened by his dog barking and heard the crackling of flames. He called 911.

Hewett asked anyone who was in the area before the fire or who might have information about any of the fires to call Division Chief Ron Richard at 3650-778-8422.

Corry’s owner Don Richmond said Monday that the building was temporarily without power and the business was open for clothing pick up only.

Hewett said Cosmic Comics sustained smoke damage in the front. The building was empty early Monday in advance of its regular noon opening time, and its front windows showed moderate soot damage. Calls to the business rang unanswered and the voicemail box was full.

Hewett said the first-arriving engine company saw heavy fire and smoke from the alley and stretched a line capable of spraying 250 gallons per minute, double the volume of water from hoses normally used in a house fire.

He said Cosmic Comics and the second-floor apartment suffered smoke damage, and the first-floor apartment suffered fire, smoke and water damage.

Hewett said a firewall between the two buildings spared Corry’s from worse damage.

Hewett asked anyone who was in the area before the fire or who might have information about any of the fires to call Division Chief Ron Richard at 360-778-8422.

Heavy smell of smoke lingered about 8 a.m. Monday at Cosmic Comics. The smell was considerably less at Corry’s where owner Richmond was optimistic that damage would be minimal.

“I think Corry’s will get through this virtually unscathed,” Richmond said.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty

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