FERNDALE, Wash. — First responders were dispatched to a report of smoke in multiple units at an apartment building in Ferndale about 8:25pm, Friday, January 21st.
Whatcom County Fire District 7 Fire Chief Larry Hoffman told Whatcom News they located a fire under ground level flooring in the building in the 5700 block of Hendrickson Avenue.
5700 block of Hendrickson Avenue
Unconfirmed radio transmissions from the scene indicated a failed sump pump may have been to blame.
Hoffman said firefighters were creating openings to the crawlspace in order to locate and get water on the fire. Eventually, these openings provided enough air for the fire to begin to “free burn” which was revealed by heavier smoke. It was at that point firefighters took a more aggressive offensive strategy that required cutting holes in apartment unit floors in order to more accurately locate and put water more directly onto the fire.
Smoke can be seen coming from a unit in a Ferndale apartment building while WCFD7 firefighters work to extinguish the fire (January 21, 2022). Video courtesy of Justice Solomon
After tenants had been standing outside in 40° weather for about an hour, the Whatcom New Life Assembly Church across the street opened their doors to provide a warm refuge.
Hoffman said he spoke to the tenants gathered in the church to update them on the situation and let them know to make other arrangements since they would be unable to return to their residences that night since all services were shut off to the building.
A water line was broken after being burned through which, even though the spray helped suppress the fire, meant water service to the apartments had to be shut water off. In addition, gas and power services were also shut off.
Hoffman said the cause of the fire remained unknown as of the next morning. The crawlspace was going to be investigated during daylight hours.
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“The church across the street was a real savior for the 25 people displaced by this fire,” Hoffman said. He said several displaced tenants stayed overnight at the church, sleeping on provided cots. The Red Cross had been contacted to provide future assistance.
Hoffman said this fire, with its challenges in locating and getting water on it, was the most difficult he had ever dealt with during his 35-year career.