After a week-long investigation, the Bellingham Police Department has made an arrest for the fire at Hohl Feed and Seed.
Paul J. Wolfe, 57, was arrested on Wednesday Feb. 27 for felony reckless burning in the first degree. Wolfe is listed as transient.
On Feb. 18, the Bellingham Fire Department responded to a structure fire at Hohl Feed and Seed at 1322 Railroad Ave. The fire eventually destroyed the second floor of the two-story pet store and also destroyed a large portion of a one-story building and grain silo. Fire Department investigators determined the origin of the fire was a brick chimney off the back alley between the two buildings. The tall chimney reaches the second floor of the Hohl's building.
Area video surveillance showed the following:
- Around 3:35 a.m. that morning, two subjects entered the small alcove between the two pet store buildings and remained there for about 30 minutes.
- At 4 a.m., the two people left the alcove.
- At around 4:05 a.m., what appears to be a third subject runs into the alcove. Flames are visible, and it appears the person is removing items from the alcove, including what looks like a backpack, before running away from the area.
A 911 call reporting the incident initiated a two-alarm fire response at 4:20 a.m.
Photo images from the video surveillance were released to the public, and tips from the public identified one of the individuals. Through Bellingham Police Department interviews with that individual, it was determined that Wolfe started the fire in the brick chimney to get warm. The individual reported that within minutes, he observed sparks and flames coming out of the top of the chimney, and that he and Wolfe panicked and left the area.
Wolfe has denied setting an intentional fire and indicated he didn't remember the morning of the incident. Based on probable cause, Wolfe has been arrested for reckless burning in the first degree for starting a fire on private property that lead to building damage.