Employee missing after fire ‘gutted’ historic Fairhaven building

Dec 18, 2023, 6:40 AM

(KIRO 7)...

(KIRO 7)

(KIRO 7)

FAIRHAVEN, Wash. — Tragedy in the North Sound as an employee is missing after a historic building goes up in flames in Fairhaven. And it will take some time before the search for the missing person can begin.

A two-alarm fire raced through a 135-year-old building in the heart of Bellingham’s historic Fairhaven district.

Residents have been grieving since the fire broke out last night.

And that was before we got the terrible news, that someone who works here may not have made it out alive.

“And it’s just really tragic,” said Bellingham Mayor Seth Fleetwood. “It’s tragic.”

Bellingham’s outgoing mayor joined the chorus of lifelong Fairhaven residents, mourning the loss of the historic Terminal Building.

Fleetwood’s law office was here for 25 years.

“And now it’s, and now, well, you can see it,” he said, turning to look at the building. “It’s absolutely gutted. So, it’s a tragic day.”

The fire broke out just before midnight Saturday night. Doug Brown was asleep when the smoke from the fire woke him up.

“And I watched for the next two and a half hour,” Brown said. “So, it was very sad. Yeah, it’s sad. I love this town.”

He says flames were so hot, and moved so quickly, firefighters had to retreat lest the second floor give way and collapse on top of them.

That forced them to fight the fire defensively, from the outside. The age of the building and the lack of a sprinkler system kept the fire raging for hours.

“There was a coffee house and a cafe and then some other shared spaces along the way, so it was very much carved up,” he said.

The fire left the building so precarious, that investigators couldn’t get inside to do one of their most important jobs: search for anyone who might be unaccounted for.

“That’s our highest priority right now,” said Chief Hewett, “to try to get the building stabilized so we can get in and make that search.”

Chief Hewett says they don’t know when they will be able to go inside the building. They are waiting for the owner to shore up the building to make it safe to enter.

But what is known is that family and friends are likely grieving an even greater loss than this building, that of someone they loved.

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