Here’s what the iconic downtown businesses are asking for after Wednesday’s fire

Drone footage shows devastation at Clark Feed & Seed and Avalon Records

Drone footage over Clark Feed & Seed and Avalon Records shows the devastation of both buildings the day after crews responded to a three-alarm fire Wednesday night, July 18, 2019, in Bellingham, Wash.
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Drone footage over Clark Feed & Seed and Avalon Records shows the devastation of both buildings the day after crews responded to a three-alarm fire Wednesday night, July 18, 2019, in Bellingham, Wash.

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Clark Feed & Seed, Avalon Records fire

A fire the evening of July 17, 2019, significantly damaged landmark downtown business Clark Feed & Seed and Avalon Records.

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While one iconic business damaged in Wednesday evening’s three-alarm fire in downtown Bellingham declined help from an online fundraising effort started in its honor, a second business asked for help over the weekend and has already exceeded its goal.

Avalon Records owner Chris Lamb on Friday, July 19, started a GoFundMe account with the goal of reaching $10,000 to help the store’s “small crew of five, freshly unemployed with bills to pay.” In two days the account already had surpassed that goal by more than $1,000.

“Any donation to alleviate the suffering of Team Avalon and help in their transitions would be deeply appreciated,” Lamb wrote in the GoFundMe post.

In a Facebook post notifying the store’s fans of the GoFundMe account, Avalon said all proceeds would be evenly distributed among the employees.

Unfortunately, monetary donations can’t make up for the loss of Avalon’s irreplaceable vinyl collection, which Lamb described on the GoFundMe account as “devastating and leaves a hole in the soul.”

In a second video post on Friday, Lamb also asked for favorite memories of the record store.

Clark Feed & Seed, meanwhile, posted on Facebook Saturday that a GoFundMe account that was started in its honor was not needed. The account has since been taken down by GoFundMe.

The Facebook post said the store was thankful for the sentiment, “but we are not in need of fundraising at this time.”

Store operators Larry and Mary Jo Oltmann also said in the post that though they appreciate that many of the store’s customers want to know what their plans are for the future, “Our priority right now needs to focus on the closure of the claim for the first fire (Hohl’s) and moving forward on the claim for the second fire.”

An update to another post made Friday on Clark’s Facebook page trying to plan a rescue effort for the fish that were in the store when it burned said that a structural engineer would not be available until Monday to clear anyone going into the building.

Bellingham Fire Department captain Dave Pethick told The Bellingham Herald that the engineers arrived on scene on Monday, but investigators likely would not enter the building until Wednesday.

Firefighters battle the three-alarm Clark Feed & Seed and Avalon Records fire Wednesday, July 17, 2019, in downtown Bellingham, Wash.

Landmark businesses burn

As previously reported in The Herald: Twenty fire units from around Whatcom County responded to 1326 Railroad Ave. after the call for a smoke investigation was made at 7:16 p.m. Wednesday. Bellingham Fire assistant chief Jay Comfort said the response quickly was upgraded to fire suppression.

Captain Dave Pethick said the first fire crews arrived and entered Clark Feed & Seed to fight the fire offensively.

By 7:50 p.m., it was determined to pull fire crews out of the building and fight the fire defensively in the interest of firefighter safety. Crews attempted to keep flames from spreading to Avalon Records, Pethick said, but by 8:44 p.m. they also were fighting flames defensively at Avalon.

Vienna Cleaners, which is adjacent to Clark and Avalon, also suffered some smoke damage, but was open on Thursday.

Bellingham Fire crews remain downtown at the scene of the Clark Feed & Seed and Avalon Records fire Thursday, July 18, 2019, in Bellingham, Wash. Lacey Young The Bellingham Herald

Not the first fire

Wednesday’s fire comes nearly five months to the day after Hohl Feed & Seed, a store that shared a wall with Clark, was destroyed by fire on Feb. 18. Two alarms were called on that fire.

The Hohl fire was determined to have been started by a transient who was attempting to get warm. On Feb. 28, Bellingham Police booked Paul Jonathon Wolfe into Whatcom County Jail on suspicion of first-degree felony reckless burning.

Wolfe, 56, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 30 days in jail, according to court records. Wolfe got credit for time served and was released from jail in March, according to Whatcom County Jail records.

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.