Family escapes, dog dies in house fire north of Bellingham

A family escaped unharmed from a fire that gutted their home north of Bellingham early Monday, April 27, but they were unable to save their dog.

The house, located at 559 E. Axton Road, had flames showing from the back and heavy smoke from the front when firefighters arrived at 4:27 a.m., said North Whatcom Assistant Fire Chief Henry Hollander. Firefighters quickly knocked out the main part of the fire in the kitchen and living room, then had to pull apart the ceiling and make sure the fire had stopped spreading.

The exterior walls of the house stayed upright, but the fire destroyed the interior. Will Anderson, an investigator with the Whatcom County Fire Marshal’s Office, said the home is a total loss. He estimated at least $150,000 in damage.

Steven John Glattfelder, his wife Erica Glattfelder, and two of their kids, ages 7 and 16, were able to escape without any injuries. Their other son had stayed the night at a relative’s house.

Steven, who goes by John, said they were only able to recover the pajamas they wore as they escaped the house barefoot. Some pictures may be salvageable, but everything else inside was burned or had smoke damage.

The family’s dog, a pug named Lacey, did not survive. They recovered the body and buried her Monday morning.

Most of the smoke alarms in the house were disabled because the family had been painting inside, but they left one on in the living room to be safe.

“If we hadn’t thought of that, we probably wouldn’t be talking,” John said.

Erica, 35, said she woke up first to the smoke alarm. She alerted her husband, who saw smoke and flames filling the kitchen. He told Erica to get the kids and get out while he put on pajamas and called 911. He initially tried to put out the fire with a towel, but it was already “too far gone,” he said. He opened the door to the laundry room near the kitchen, where the dog was, and screamed for the dog to come out as cabinets collapsed around him. She didn’t.

The cause of the fire has not been determined, Anderson said, but it started somewhere in the kitchen. He said it was accidental. It did not appear to be an electrical issue.

The local chapter of the American Red Cross has helped the family find a hotel room. Depending on what their insurance company says, John said the family probably will rebuild their house on the site. The Whatcom County Assessor’s website lists the estimated value of the property at $257,490.

“We’re just thankful to God that we’re here and alive,” John said.