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Wednesday, June 3, 2020

‘Person of interest’ seen in alley on surveillance cameras at time of Hohl fire

Screenshot of surveillance video provided by Bellingham Police Department

by Esther Chong

Surveillance videos provided by Bellingham Police Department

Bellingham Police Department released videos of a person they believe to be connected to the fire that destroyed Hohl Feed and Seed in downtown Bellingham.

“We want the public’s help in looking at the video, anything in the video that helps us locate the person that was closest to the origin of the fire,” Lt. Claudia Murphy, Bellingham Police Department public information officer, said.

According to Murphy, a neighboring business behind the gardening store, D’Anna’s Cafe Italiano, shared a surveillance video with investigators.

The video shows an individual in the alley and a glowing light eventually appearing on their right side. The individual is then seen leaving shortly after as the light, which appears to be the fire, grows larger.  

“We have to determine if this is going to be a criminal investigation like arson, or [if] it’s an accidental incident,” Murphy said.

In a separate video taken by the city’s street cameras, the individual can be seen exiting the alley towards an intersection on East Magnolia Street.

This video taken on the city camera also reveals another individual seen wearing a red hat and a backpack. According to Murphy, police do not believe this second person is connected to the fire, but are trying to locate them to ask questions about the night the fire occurred.

According to a press release from Bellingham Fire Department Assistant Chief Bill Hewett, investigators could not find any electrical or heat sources that caused the fire on Feb. 20.

“Without anything to indicate an accidental start to the fire, it is apparent that the fire was caused by a person,” Hewett said in the press release.

A second fire on the 1200 block of Railroad Avenue occurred behind a parking garage at 3:30 a.m. on Feb. 20, according to Murphy and Bellingham Police Daily Activity Logs.

Murphy said police do not believe the two incidents are related at this time.

The investigation team is asking for help from the community to try to identify who was in the alley as well as the individual in the red hat.  

“The fire department has determined that there’s nothing there that would have caught the building on fire without a human’s help,” Murphy said.Bellingham Police and Fire Departments encourage individuals who have any information about the fire to please contact Detective Dan Kelsh at 360-778-8690 or the Bellingham Police Tip Line at 360-778-8611 and electronically at www.cob.org/tips.

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