Crime

Burn pile catches Custer farm shack on fire during demolition

Lynden and North Whatcom firefighters spray down a shack that had caught fire Tuesday afternoon, May 24, 2016. A nearby burn pile ignited the building, which was being demolished at the time.
Lynden and North Whatcom firefighters spray down a shack that had caught fire Tuesday afternoon, May 24, 2016. A nearby burn pile ignited the building, which was being demolished at the time. kmittan@bhamherald.com

A dilapidated farm building in the Custer area caught fire from a nearby burn pile as it was being demolished Tuesday afternoon, May 24.

North Whatcom and Lynden firefighters responded to the fire at 2424 Zell Road just before 3 p.m., said Assistant Fire Chief Robert Spinner.

When firefighters arrived, the 20-by-50-foot storage shack was engulfed. Nothing was inside it. The building sat about 10 feet away from a larger building, but nothing else caught fire.

Firefighters had the fire out in about 15 minutes, Spinner said.

Steve Pabody, 42, who said he owns the property, had been demolishing the building when it caught fire. A burn pile about 5 or 6 feet in front of the structure was burning rotted wood. When the wind picked up, it blew the fire into the building, igniting some of the rotted rafters inside.

“When it started getting windy, we should have put it out then,” Pabody said. “I didn’t think it was a problem.”

Pabody, who said he bought the farm in January, was tearing down the structure to make space for a cold storage building for the flowers and produce he grows on the farm and sells. His wife called 911 when the fire got out of hand.

Mitch Nolze, an investigator with the Whatcom County Fire Marshal’s Office, said the only loss was the building itself and estimated its value at about $3,000.

The fire, Nolze said, was deemed accidental. Though burning without the proper permits is illegal, Nolze said Pabody was warned about the dangers but not cited.

Pabody admitted he had used several burn piles since buying the property but would send rotted wood through his chipper from now on.

The fire time and crews responding were corrected May 25, 2016.

Kyle Mittan: 360-756-2803, @KyleMittan

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