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Cause of Friberg Construction fire unclear; owner plans to rebuild in Ferndale

Fire burns Ferndale construction business

Firefighters from Whatcom County Fire District 7 finish putting out a fire at Friberg Construction on Saturday, June 17, in Ferndale.
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Firefighters from Whatcom County Fire District 7 finish putting out a fire at Friberg Construction on Saturday, June 17, in Ferndale.

A Ferndale construction business will try to rebuild after a devastating fire destroyed its shop over weekend.

John Friberg, owner and founder of Friberg Construction Inc., was drinking coffee with Gary Russell, the fire chief of Whatcom County Fire District 7, in downtown Ferndale when the flames broke out across town at his business last Saturday.

Flames ripped through the 10,000-square-foot building at 6425 W. 20th Ave., on the northern edge of city limits. Heat melted a dump truck, two diesel trucks, and thousands of dollars in tools and equipment.

Will Anderson, an investigator with the Whatcom County Fire Marshal’s Office, suspects the fire started in a truck bay area. The official cause will go down as undetermined, however, because so much of the evidence was lost, while gasoline, kerosene and other hazardous materials fed into the rapid growth of the fire.

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Firefighters from Whatcom County Fire District 7 work to put out remaining hotspots during a fire at Friberg Construction on Saturday, June 17, in Ferndale. Evan Abell eabell@bhamherald.com

Friberg, 76, built the building about 25 years ago. His business completed hundreds of projects over the past few decades: water tanks in Bellingham, miles of pipes to build a rest stop in Custer, sewers in Wenatchee, and jobs as far-flung as Alaska.

“This was the dream of my life when I found this property, and built this building on it,” Friberg said Thursday. “We're down but we're not out. It’s like in a baseball game. There's still a few innings left.”

The fire marshal’s office estimates the total loss around $600,000. Friberg expects when all of the contents, buildings, vehicles are added up, the losses will be close to $2 million. Friberg could just retire now, he said, but he wants the business to be in good shape when he passes it on to his boys. He hopes to have things back up to speed by fall.

“We don’t just run and hide, we persevere,” he said. “You have to grit your teeth and say: We did it once, we’ll do it again.”

Caleb Hutton: 360-715-2276, @bhamcaleb

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