YAKIMA, Wash. — A lawsuit against Bernd Moving Systems alleges the storage company falsely claimed its Yakima warehouse, the scene of a huge fire last summer, was equipped with sprinklers.
The lawsuit was filed Feb. 20 in Yakima County Superior Court by William and Colleen Merriman of King County. The defendants are owners Doug Bernd and his son, Dirk Bernd, along with unnamed company employees.
Central to the lawsuit was a fire Aug. 5 that severely damaged the company’s 10,800-square-foot storage warehouse on North 18th Avenue.
In their lawsuit, the Merrimans said they began storing household furnishings and family heirlooms in the warehouse in 2005 after receiving assurances their goods would be “fully insured and that they would be stored in a facility that was equipped with sprinklers.”
“Both representations,” the lawsuit states, “were false.”
The lawsuit appears to be the first in connection with the fire. A lawyer for the plaintiffs, William C. Smart of Seattle, said his firm was not representing any other clients against the company to date.
The blaze destroyed much of the warehouse, which contained about 200 units or “vaults,” and was one of the biggest commercial fires in Yakima in recent years. Preliminary damages were estimated at $1.5 million.
In an interview with the Yakima Herald-Republic the day after the fire, Dirk Bernd said fire insurance was minimal for individual storage vaults unless renters paid for full coverage.
Neither he nor his father returned calls seeking comment on the lawsuit and updates on the damage figure.
The cause of the blaze was never determined, Brandon Dorenbush, deputy fire marshal for the Yakima Fire Department, said earlier this week.
He deferred to Deputy Chief Mark Soptich for official comment.
Soptich did not return several calls seeking further information.
• Chris Bristol can be reached at 509-577-7748 or firstname.lastname@example.org.