Bellingham community devastated after fire destroys landmark building

BELLINGHAM, Wash. -- Fire destroyed a landmark building in Bellingham early Monday morning. Firefighters responded to the call at Hohl’s Feed and Seed just after 4:00 a.m.

Fire officials in Bellingham told us no one was injured in the fire and they think most of the animals were saved. But this store has been in this community for more than 100 years, and some say they’re devastated by the loss.

“It’s heart-wrenching. It’s been here for so many years,” said Tonia Klemann, who was born and raised in Bellingham.

It wasn’t just a pet store. Hohl’s Feed and Seed was a place where families could go to bond with each other and with the animals.

“My kids, when they were small, our favorite thing to do was to come into Bellingham. We’d eat at the Baglery and we’d come across to the pet store and look at the animals,” said Sylvia Jensen, who lives in Ferndale.

Bellingham Fire Department officials say they were called to the fire on Railroad Avenue about 4:20 Monday morning and could see flames in back of the building on the 2nd floor. Firefighters couldn’t access the building so they fought the fire from the outside and removed most of the small animals.

“We’re not sure whether or not we were able to get all of them or not. We haven’t been able to get a full accounting of that yet. Whatcom Humane Society responded down here and worked with the owners of the store to find some temporary shelter for those animals that were retrieved,” said  Bill Hewett, Bellingham Assistant Fire Chief.

The store was originally built in the early 1900s and Hewett says a fire wall between the connecting building played a major role in saving other buildings.

“It’s pretty devastating to the whole community to see what’s going on here today. I know our investigation team is on-sight right now talking with witnesses and other folks here trying to get some ideas together,” Hewett said.

Hewett says it’ll be several days before fire officials can safely start looking around inside the pet store for more clues. In the meantime, customers we spoke to say they hope the store can bounce back.

"I hope they start all over again because we'd hate to lose them," Klemann said.

Bellingham Fire Department says Railroad Avenue will remain blocked off and parking in front of the store will be restricted until the investigation is complete.