Structure fire burns along Chuckanut Drive
The Wednesday fire at a Chuckanut Drive home that injured a pair of renters and likely killed their pets was not the first time a house there burned.
“The house has a little history,” South Whatcom Fire Authority chief Dave Ralston told The Bellingham Herald. “Neighbors told us that the house had a fire a little over 30 years ago, so it was the second time that house has burned.”
According to Herald archives, a house on the same property at 907 Chuckanut Drive was destroyed by a fire that started at approximately 1 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 2, 1983.
A Herald story on Oct. 4, 1983, said the home was owned by Wayne Miller and that then Whatcom County Fire Marshall Dave Langford suspected arson as the cause.
Bill D. Huchkins, 28, was suspected of starting his roommate’s house on fire following an argument, Whatcom County Undersheriff Doug Gill told The Herald at the time, causing an estimated $100,000 damage.
Langford told The Herald that the 1983 fire started in the living room, where “accelerants” were found. Samples were sent to a laboratory for analysis.
More than two weeks later on Oct. 17, 1983, Huchkins was arrested on suspicion of first-degree arson, according to a story that appeared in The Herald a day later.
According to records supplied to The Herald by the Whatcom County Superior Court clerk’s office, Huchkins pleaded guilty in late 1983 and received a deferred sentence and had to make restitution. The records showed that an order to remove restitution was filed in 2003 after Huchkins died.
Crews from South Whatcom Fire and the Bellingham Fire Department were dispatched to Wednesday’s fire near the north end of Larrabee State Park.
“They reported a fully-involved residential fire with flames visible,” Ralston said.
The renters had already exited the home by the time crews arrived, Ralston said, though the woman, who helped get one dog out, went back inside when she couldn’t find the man. He had already exited the home, and the two soon reunited, but the home was a complete loss.
Ralston said the woman suffered burns to her back and the man scraped his ankle while hopping a fence. Both were taken to St. Joseph’s hospital for treatment and later released. The couple was not able to rescue another pet dog and cat.
Ralston said the cause of the fire is unknown, but it is believed to have started in the back of the house and spread to the kitchen.