Crime

Woman injured in Bellingham fire, leaps from roof to escape

A two-alarm fire sent a Bellingham woman to a Seattle hospital with severe burns to her hands and face Friday morning, Oct. 23.

The woman and her boyfriend awoke around 6 a.m. to find their mattress on fire in a second-story bedroom at 3705 Beal St., a dark brown two-story house near the Meridian Street freeway overpass, said Assistant Fire Chief Bill Hewett.

She was on fire, one witness said, as she ran onto a roof that covers the porch and jumped off. She ran into a neighboring yard of tall dewy grass. She was rushed to St. Joseph hospital, then transferred to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Nathan Ayers, a neighbor, heard screams from down the street. Meanwhile the fire spread upstairs, broke through the roof, and flared at least 20 feet high.

“It was the whole upstairs on fire,” said Skip Higgins, 36, a next-door neighbor. “We heard a loud pop, and a lot more screaming.”

Two other people — Darren Gordan Overby, 54, who said he owns the home, and a second woman — fled the house unharmed. According to Higgins, Overby was shouting over and over: “What did you idiots do?”

The burn victim’s boyfriend ran off. Once firefighters found him, he was taken to St. Joseph hospital for minor burns and smoke inhalation.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Overby told a reporter five people lived at the house. He has lived there since 1985.

County assessor’s records show the home, and five neighboring homes with values ranging from $1,000 to $55,000, are listed as a single estate owned by B&G Properties of Mount Vernon.

On Friday morning no working smoke alarms were found in the home, Hewett said. This month at fire station open houses, the Bellingham fire department has been urging people to ensure their bedroom smoke alarms work.

“This is exactly what we’re talking about,” Hewett said.

“Instead,” he said, “they woke up and they were on fire.”

Reach Caleb Hutton at 360-715-2276 or caleb.hutton@bellinghamherald.com. Follow him on Twitter at @bhamcaleb.

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