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Chuckanut house already had a lengthy history of fire, and it just added a new chapter

Chuckanut Drive home burns for a second time in three months

A Chuckanut Drive home south of Bellingham, Wash., burned for the second time in three months Thursday, June 27, 2019. Firefighters are investigating the cause of the most recent fire.
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A Chuckanut Drive home south of Bellingham, Wash., burned for the second time in three months Thursday, June 27, 2019. Firefighters are investigating the cause of the most recent fire.

A house along Chuckanut Drive that already had a 30-year history with fire, including a destructive blaze in April, burned yet again Thursday morning, June 27.

“I think its luck has run out,” South Whatcom Fire Authority chief Rod Topel told The Bellingham Herald. “When I left, it was pretty much just the chimney standing.”

South Whatcom and Bellingham Fire Department crews were called to the 900 block of Chuckanut Drive at 4:56 a.m. Thursday — the second time fire crews have responded to the address in 2 1/2 months.

“It’s always one of those things you take very seriously when a fire breaks out in the same location,” Topel told The Herald.

Bellingham Fire was the first to arrive on scene, Topel said, and found what was left of the structure was “well involved,” with flames showing.

Because the home had already burned, the size of the fire when they arrived and the unlikely chance anybody was actually in the structure, two engine companies fought the fire defensively, Topel said, putting water on flames from a safe distance outside.

“There was heavy involvement throughout the structure, and it started to fall in on itself,” Topel said. “There just wasn’t much left.”

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A Whatcom County house in the 900 block of Chuckanut Drive that already had a 30-year history with fire, including a destructive blaze in April, burned yet again Thursday morning. The cause is under investigation. Julia Stark Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Topel said the cause of Thursday’s fire was under investigation, though fire crews received unverified reports that there may have been work being done in the home on Wednesday.

As previously reported by The Herald, Denise and Tom Miller were fortunate to escape an early morning fire in the home on April 10. The couple got separated while trying to rescue their dogs and escaped after being awoken by fire ravaging their kitchen.

An early morning fire destroyed a home on Chuckanut Drive south of Bellingham, Wash., on Wednesday, April 10, 2019.

“It was such a relief when I saw him,” Denise told The Herald in April about not seeing her husband when she was safely outside the house. “I was already grieving him. I thought he was dead.”

Fortunately, they soon reunited and suffered only minor injuries, and a day later a Gofundme.com account started in their honor raised more than $51,325 to help them through the ordeal.

“We never imagined we’d just lose everything,” Denise told The Herald. “But the help we’ve received has been overwhelming. We have been weeping because people have been so generous.”

The Miller’s son is known from his Henry’s Humdinger honey business.

But even that wasn’t the first time the house had burned, as neighbors told firefighters in April that it also had a fire more than 30 years ago, now retired South Whatcom chief Dave Ralston told The Herald.

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A Whatcom County house in the 900 block of Chuckanut Drive that already had a 30-year history with fire, including a destructive blaze in April, burned yet again Thursday morning. The cause is under investigation. Julia Stark Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

And if that weren’t enough, neighbor Julia Stark told The Herald in April that her stepfather remembered a row of 20 to 30 evergreen trees on the property catching fire approximately 10 or 11 years ago after a burn pile was left unattended.

“For South Whatcom, it doesn’t happen all that often that you have a house have a new ignition like that,” Topel told The Herald. “But we don’t have that many fires of that kind here. I don’t know the national statistics on that. ... But I’d hazard to say that here in Whatcom County, it’s pretty rare that that happens.”

David Rasbach joined The Bellingham Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news. He has been an editor and writer in several western states since 1994.
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