Crime

Fire at Undine Street duplex displaces two Bellingham families

A father and son escaped a fire that gutted half of a duplex Monday afternoon, April 13.

Richard Pace, 16, a Squalicum High School student, said he’d just gotten home from school and had been watching videos with his cat, Luna, on his lap around 3 p.m. at 2842 Undine St.

Then the cat started “freaking out,” and a smoke alarm went off. Once he and his father realized the house was on fire, they grabbed a few valuables — “because you can’t replace everything,” Pace said — and ran outside. They saw heavy smoke and fire in the kitchen as they fled.

Firefighters reached the scene to find most of the back side of the two-story house aflame, said Assistant Bellingham Fire Chief Bill Hewett. The fire then spread through the house to the front side. Flames shot out of Pace’s upstairs bedroom. He walked around near the driveway, shoeless in the drizzling rain, watching the fire burn. A neighbor offered him shoes.

“I don’t like to take things from other people,” Pace said. Eventually, though, he borrowed them, with some reluctance.

After about a half-hour, firefighters suggested Pace and his father go to St. Joseph hospital to be checked, as a precaution, for smoke inhalation. Meanwhile the house burned, and a tall dark column of smoke could be seen for miles around.

Firefighters continued to investigate the cause of the fire and the extent of the damage. The loss is expected to be at least $100,000, Hewett said.

Pace’s family was displaced by the fire. One of Pace’s brothers hadn’t been home at the time. A second family in a unit on the north side of the house — a husband, wife and two young children who weren’t home at the time — were displaced too, Hewett said. That unit mostly had smoke damage.

The local chapter of the American Red Cross is helping the families find temporary shelter.

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