BELLINGHAM, Wash. - A two-alarm fire that destroyed a well-known Bellingham pet supply store and threatened other nearby buildings early Monday was started under "suspicious circumstances," says the city's assistant fire chief, Bill Hewett.
An investigative team has found evidence that the blaze at Hohl Feed and Seed started was started on the outside of the building in the alley, in an area where there are no heat or electrical sources.
"Without anything to indicate an accidental start to the fire, it is apparent that the fire was caused by a person," Hewett said in a prepared statement.
He said a surveillance video provided by a neighboring business confirms there was a person in the area where the fire started minutes before 911 was notified at about 4:20 a.m. Monday.
The fire destroyed the historic pet and feed store at at 1322 Railroad Ave. The front stone facade and the water-logged first floor are about all that's left of the business, which has been a fixture for over a century in the heart of the city's downtown.
The blaze also directly affected several businesses surrounding the location as well as impacting hundreds of other businesses and residents due to the power outage and traffic closures.
Firefighters were able to rescue dozens of animals, including rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, mice, domestic rats, chicks, birds, fish, a box turtle and a tarantula. But some animals didn't make it out alive.
"The loss of such an iconic and historic downtown business is felt throughout the entire Whatcom County area," said Bellingham Fire Chief Bill Newbold. "To find out that it was potentially started by either an intentional or careless act by a person just adds to the devastation we are feeling as a community."
Anyone with information that could help identify the person seen on video in the alley is urged to contact Detective Kelsh at 360-778-8690 or the Bellingham Police tip line at 360-778-8611. Tips can also be sent in electronically at www.cob.org/tips.