Homeless man pleads guilty to starting fire that destroyed Hohl Feed & Seed in Bellingham
BELLINGHAM, Wash. — The man who started a fire that ended up destroying a historic feed store in downtown Bellingham pleaded guilty to the crime and said he was trying to stay warm on a frigid winter morning.
According to court documents, Paul John Wolfe, 57, pleaded guilty to one count of reckless burning in the first degree in connection with a fire that destroyed Hohl Feed & Seed. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail, but the Bellingham Herald reports that he was credited for time served (26 days) and released from jail Monday.
Wolfe told police he had started a fire behind the store early that morning in an effort to stay warm.
Nearly 80 animals were rescued in the early morning fire Feb. 18 at Hohl Feed and Seed on Railroad Avenue.
The city’s police and fire departments said the fire appeared to have been started by someone who could be seen on area surveillance video outside the store minutes before the fire was reported. Tips led police to Wolfe.
The Whatcom Humane Society cared for the rescued dozens of animals including rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, mice, domestic rats, birds and a tarantula.
The store has been in the community for more than 100 years.