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What caused the fire that displaced 8 WWU students in the Sehome neighborhood last week?

Bellingham fire destroys students home

Bellingham Fire crews battled two house fires at rental properties in the Sehome neighborhood Thursday morning, Oct. 5, but no one was believed to be injured
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Bellingham Fire crews battled two house fires at rental properties in the Sehome neighborhood Thursday morning, Oct. 5, but no one was believed to be injured

Cause remains undetermined in the wake of a fire that gutted a Sehome neighborhood home and damaged a neighboring house, fire officials said Monday.

Last Thursday’s fire started in the open kitchen-living area of the basement at 1017 Jersey St., then quickly spread upstairs to the first floor bedrooms, said Assistant Chief Bill Hewett of the Bellingham Fire Department. Flames then jumped to the first floor bedroom next door at 1019 Jersey St., he said.

“With the burn patterns present, they weren’t able to pinpoint (a cause),” Hewett said.

Although both homes appear as single-story structures from the front on Jersey Street, they are built into a hillside with daylight basements that make them appear as two story homes from the rear, which faces an alley.

Both homes at 1017 and 1019 Jersey St. – built in 1900 – were recently inspected and passed requirements under the city’s rental inspection program, Hewett said. Fire damage to the home at 1019 Jersey St. mostly was limited to a first floor bedroom in the back, but there was smoke and water damage throughout, residents said.

Eight Western Washington University students were displaced, four in each house. Some items were salvaged from the home at 1019 Jersey St., but the interior of the house at 1017 Jersey St. was a total loss.

None of the residents had rental insurance, said Julia Burns, coordinator for the Campus Community Coalition at WWU. She was helping to coordinated temporary housing and handle the students’ other immediate needs.

Four women who lived at 1019 Jersey St. were still seeking a place to live, according to a post on The Bellingham Herald’s Facebook page. In a weekend text message, one of the four men who lived at 1017 Jersey St. said the former roommates are all “taken care of.”

Most recent Whatcom County assessments show the homes were valued at $182,000 and $190,000.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty

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