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After warehouse fire, Bellingham manufacturer looking for new home

Fire damaged its Bellingham warehouse, but this company wants to stay in business

Blue Sea Systems, a Bellingham company that makes electrical parts for boats, plans to stay in business after a two-alarm weekend fire heavily damaged its warehouse in the Cordata neighborhood.
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Blue Sea Systems, a Bellingham company that makes electrical parts for boats, plans to stay in business after a two-alarm weekend fire heavily damaged its warehouse in the Cordata neighborhood.

A Bellingham company that makes electrical parts for boats is planning to remain in business after a two-alarm weekend fire heavily damaged its Cordata neighborhood building.

Firefighters were dispatched at 2:02 a.m. Saturday to an activated fire alarm at Blue Sea Systems, 425 Sequoia Drive, and found smoke and fire from the roof, said Assistant Chief Bill Hewett of Bellingham Fire Department.

No injuries were reported and the cause was under investigation, Hewett said in an interview Monday morning.

Damages could run into the millions of dollars, both fire and company officials said.

Hewett said the collapse of the concrete tilt-up building was a possibility Monday and its walls were being stabilized before fire investigators went inside.

A damage estimate wasn’t immediately available, said Lee Gordon, spokesman for Mercury Marine in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, which owns Blue Sea’s parent company, Power Products.

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Firefighters pour large streams of water on the fire at Blue Sea Systems early Nov. 10. Bellingham Fire Department Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

According to the Whatcom County Auditor’s Office, the 28,000-square-foot building was valued at $2 million for the 2017-2018 tax year.

It was built in 2000, before current fire codes required a sprinkler system.

The value of its contents depends on what was damaged, Gordon said.

“We’re looking for a temporary solution for our employees,” Gordon said in an interview Monday.

Gordon said 75 people work at the Bellingham location, which includes offices, manufacturing, warehousing and distribution.

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Shawn Robert, left, and Stepan Baydak of Scrap-It install fencing around the damaged Blue Sea Systems building Monday in the Cordata area. Robert Mittendorf The Bellingham Herald

He said the company was looking for a temporary location and deciding if it would rebuild at the 2.21-acre Cordata site or find a new location that’s already available.

Gordon said he’s already received offers of workspace and other help from Bellingham businesses.

“It’s been an incredible pouring of outreach from local business and the fire department,” Gordon said.

He praised firefighters’ effort to limit the loss by protecting Blue Sea’s inventory.

“We knew the damage was going to be extensive, but the fire department helped to mitigate the impact,” Gordon said.

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Shawn Robert, left, and Stepan Baydak of Scrap-It install fencing around the damaged Blue Sea Systems building Monday in the Cordata area. Robert Mittendorf The Bellingham Herald

Hewett said firefighters recognized early that the building wasn’t occupied early Saturday and used tactics aimed at protecting a firewall that separated the company’s engineering operations from the rest of the building.

“There was no immediate threat to life, so we focused on fighting the fire from the exterior,” Hewett said. “We were able to protect a portion of the building.”

Hewett said firefighters used ladder trucks and large nozzles on the ground to pour thousands of gallons of water per minute into the building to keep the flames from breaching the firewall.

They also used powerful fans to pressurize the inside of the building to limit smoke damage in the unburned area, Hewett said.

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Bellingham firefighters shoot heavy streams of water into the Blue Sea Systems building early Saturday morning. Bellingham Fire Department Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Some 35 firefighters fought the blaze, including crews from Bellingham Fire and Whatcom County Fire District 8, North Whatcom Fire and Rescue and Fire District 7 in Ferndale.

Firefighters from North Whatcom, District 7 and South Whatcom Fire Authority handled calls for service in the city of Bellingham for several hours while Bellingham and other crews were fighting the Blue Sea fire.

Most of the fire was out by 5 a.m., Bellingham Fire tweeted.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty Mittendorf is a volunteer firefighter and EMT with South Whatcom Fire Authority.
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