A shop and a surrounding field of various salvage items, including fish nets, gill nets, a couple of vehicles, a trailer and a pile of wood, was a total loss, but a large contingent of fire crews from around Whatcom County managed to save a nearby house and the surrounding trees from an early-morning fire Wednesday along Samish Way.
The fire, which was near the Samish exit off Interstate 5, produced a plume of smoke that was visible from the freeway and even in the South Hills Neighborhood in Bellingham.
“We were defensive from the beginning,” South Whatcom Fire Authority Chief Dave Ralston said. “Our whole plan was to surround and drown. We wanted to protect exposure. There were lots of trees and a large column of fire. Thank goodness the winds weren’t blowing. We were able to contain it to the one building and the items around it.”
The fire, which Ralston said was spotted and reported by the property owner and toned out at 5:34 a.m., according to Pulse Point, was actually located in a building behind South Whatcom Fire Authority Station 28 at 5070 Samish Way. The shop was located on an adjacent property to a house that burned in 2014.
Unfortunately, the Station 28 crews were responding to an earlier medical emergency and weren’t in quarters at the time the call went out. Bellingham Fire Department crews were the first to respond, before they were joined by apparatus from South Whatcom, Alger, Whatcom County Fire District 18 and even a tender truck from North Whatcom Fire and Rescue, Ralston said.
“It took a lot of crews to assist with this one,” Ralston said. “It was real good cooperation by a number of Whatcom County fire agencies and the city of Bellingham.”
Making this fire particularly difficult to fight, besides all the salvage items, Ralston said, was the the lack of water hydrants in the area. A number of tender trucks had to shuttle water to battle the blaze,.
“It’s always an issue when you don’t have water with a large fire like that,” Ralston said. “Those types of fires require a lot of water. ... These types of events are challenging, at best.”
Ralston estimated crews put between 75,000 and 100,000 gallons of water on the flames, which took two to three hours to contain. One engine remained on scene Wednesday afternoon to continue monitoring.
Ralston said fire crews were still working with the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office to determine the cause of the fire.
“It was unfortunate that this happened,” Ralston said. “The gentleman has lived there for like 40 or 50 years, and he accumulated a lot of things. It’s hard to see.”