Water tender crashes, two Whatcom County firefighters taken to hospital

Two Whatcom County firefighters were taken to St. Joseph hospital as a precaution early Friday, Feb. 6, when a water tender crashed at a bend in Mosquito Lake Road.

Firefighters from all around District 14 were called to the 6500 block of North Fork Road, a long drive up a gravel road past Racehorse Creek, for a large fire in a roughly 30-by-40-foot outbuilding Friday morning. The 911 caller reported a propane tank had exploded near the building.

Cody James Hollibaugh, 25, an on-duty volunteer firefighter from Maple Falls, left the Welcome fire station driving the water tender, a 2010 Peterbilt semi tractor hauling a 3,000-gallon water tank. Another volunteer firefighter, Kendra Lee Hollibaugh, 18, was in the passenger seat.

Moments after the tender crossed the bridge over the Nooksack River about 7 a.m., the driver lost control to the left, then overcorrected to the right at a slight bend in front of 5545 Mosquito Lake Road, about a quarter-mile east of the fire station, said Washington State Patrol Trooper Mark Francis. The tender started to spin, then rolled over at least once as it crashed. The tank separated from the tractor, broke open and gushed water onto the road.

Both the truck and the water tank landed upright, according to the state patrol. Cody Hollibaugh had a broken nose, bruises and facial cuts; Kendra Hollibaugh had cuts to her face. An ambulance took them to a Bellingham hospital, where they were treated and released, said Battalion Chief Denise Christensen.

Troopers are investigating the crash. Charges are pending, Francis said.

The tender had to be towed away. District 14 has four water tenders, counting the one that crashed, stationed in Sumas, Kendall and Welcome. Tenders supply water to fire engines when no hydrants are nearby.

Meanwhile other firefighters could not save the outbuilding on North Fork Road. It was destroyed by flames. Several cars were parked in the shed. The exact cause of the fire remained under investigation, though Christensen said machinery was being looked at as a possible source.