Cigarette caused fire that displaced 13 from Bellingham apartments, fire marshal says

Watch firefighters battle fire at Samish Ridge Apartments in Bellingham

Firefighters battle a fire at Samish Ridge Apartments on Friday, July 22, in Bellingham.
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Firefighters battle a fire at Samish Ridge Apartments on Friday, July 22, in Bellingham.

A smoldering cigarette in a flowerpot led to a Bellingham apartment fire that displaced 13 people and caused roughly $200,000 in damage, according to the city fire department.

Tenants of a third-floor apartment had been gone for about a half-hour when a fire broke out on their balcony around 4 p.m. Friday, July 22, at the Samish Ridge Apartments complex, said Bellingham Fire Marshal Ron Richard. A plume of yellow-gray smoke could be seen across town rising from the building at 3962 Byron Ave.

Firefighters battled flames in an attic space for nearly a half-hour. A medium-sized dog in a kennel was rescued from the burning apartment. Most of the serious damage was in that unit.

No humans were hurt.

Fire investigators worked through the weekend to figure out the cause: a cigarette that hadn’t been entirely extinguished in a flower pot on the back balcony. The flower pot was next to other flammable items, such as automotive tires, that caught fire, too, Richard said.

Half of the building’s 16 units weren’t habitable for at least a night, according to the fire department. Samish Ridge is one of the few pet-friendly apartment complexes in town.

Thirteen people and 10 pets were displaced – and could be without their apartment for a while, depending on the severity of damage to the support beams, Richard said. Some residents in units across the building have been allowed to move back in.

Apartment management has helped tenants to find temporary housing, and the local chapter of the American Red Cross also has offered to help those affected.

Caleb Hutton: 360-715-2276, @bhamcaleb