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Fire displaces family who just started Bellingham church

Firefighters tackle house fire south of Bellingham

South Whatcom firefighters with the help of Bellingham and District 8 firefighters put out a house fire Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016, south of Bellingham that destroyed the top floor. There were no injuries.
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South Whatcom firefighters with the help of Bellingham and District 8 firefighters put out a house fire Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016, south of Bellingham that destroyed the top floor. There were no injuries.

A house fire just east of Lake Samish on Tuesday displaced a family of six new to Whatcom County, firefighters said.

The family escaped unharmed when they saw heavy smoke and flames in a second-story bedroom around 1:15 p.m. at 354 Pacific Highway, east of Interstate 5 near the Skagit County line.

Firefighters reached the two-story house within six minutes and knocked down flames that damaged much of the upper floor, said South Whatcom Fire Authority Chief Dave Ralston. Bellingham and South Lake Whatcom firefighters rushed to the scene, too.

The top floor of the home was considered a total loss, as damage spread to the stairs and into the roof. It took about 2,000 gallons from a water tender to put out the fire, Ralston said.

Firefighters remained on scene for hours. The cause remains under investigation by the county fire marshal’s office.

The house had been sold to Joseph and Donneta Barth in February at a price of $265,000, according to county assessor’s records.

Over the past year the couple planted an Assemblies of God church, Four 19, on King Street, where Joseph is the pastor and Donneta leads worship service. The church is named for the Bible verse Matthew 4:19.

The home is uninhabitable for now, Ralston said. They declined help from the local Red Cross, telling firefighters they had been offered help from other church members.

Caleb Hutton: 360-715-2276, @bhamcaleb

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