As-it-happened coverage: West Seattle house fire sends 1 to the hospital; damage estimated at $250,000

May 1, 2012 at 5:29 pm | In West Seattle fires, West Seattle news, WS breaking news | 31 Comments

(Photo by Christopher Boffoli for WSB)
ORIGINAL 5:29 PM REPORT: Even before seeing the 911 call, our crew saw the smoke from miles north – a house-fire call in the 8400 block of 20th SW (map). We’re on our way.

(Photo courtesy Lisa)
5:34 PM UPDATE: From the scanner – “heavy fire in the basement” of a one-story home; everybody got out of the house safely.

5:40 PM UPDATE: Our crew has arrived and is seeing the flames in the basement, plus lots of smoke, and firefighters on the roof working on ventilation. Via the scanner, we hear two more engines being requested. Adding photos as we get them.

(Photo courtesy Amber, view from the alley)
5:55 PM UPDATE: Flames have broken through the roof. We have two crews on scene.

(Photo by WSB’s Patrick Sand)
SFD says its crews are in a “defensive position” on the fire now – basically, making sure it doesn’t spread, and taking precautions to ensure firefighters’ safety. The department’s public information officer and investigators are being sent now too.

(Video by Christopher Boffoli for WSB)
6:09 PM UPDATE: Not out yet. Firefighters are going back into “offensive” mode, per radio traffic.

6:21 PM UPDATE: One hour after crews arrived, the fire is now deemed under control, but that doesn’t mean it’s out. They’re asking for the Red Cross to help two residents, described as a woman in her 80s and a man in his 50s. Too soon to say how the fire started. (Thanks to those who have shared photos and who texted/e-mailed to be sure we’d heard about this!)

6:33 PM UPDATE: Our crews at the scene have just talked with SFD spokesperson Kyle Moore, who says the residents are an 85-year-old woman and her 59-year-old son. He was taken to the hospital with minor burns suffered while trying to put the fire out himself. (added) Here’s video of his briefing, in its entirety:

6:56 PM UPDATE: The fire is finally declared “tapped” after an hour and a half. According to Moore, crews will likely have to keep “fire watch” through much of the night, which means a crew will remain at the scene just in case of flare-ups.

9:13 PM NOTE: No word yet on the fire’s cause. In comments, Deborah says the fire survivors are her grandmother and uncle, and she is thankful to those who called 911, because her grandmother couldn’t get the call to go through when she tried.

10:27 PM UPDATE: SFD says its investigation determined that “improperly discarded smoking materials” sparked the fire; damage is estimated at $250,000. Here’s the department’s summary, via its Fire Line website.

Meantime – We have more visuals to share, both from neighbors and from our crew; click ahead if interested:

Two more photos from Christopher Boffoli showing firefighters at work:

As the house continued to smoulder, Patrick Sand photographed the front window with an eerie view to the burned interior:

And this is the smoke plume he saw early on – which explains why, before he was dispatched to the fire, he had seen it from miles north:

And a neighbor we met at the scene, C.T., took a look at the scene in terms of how many fire vehicles were there – toward the end of his clip, you’ll see SFD’s Kyle Moore talking to photographers including ours:


  1. That’s quite a bit of sirens on Delridge!

    Comment by C — 5:31 pm May 1, 2012 #

  2. This must be what the *massive* sirens/fire truck response heading South along N Delridge is about! Thanks for the quick info.

    Comment by AR — 5:31 pm May 1, 2012 #

  3. News choppers are flying ober and many responders have gone down delridge.

    Comment by coffee — 5:34 pm May 1, 2012 #

  4. That explains all the emergency vehicles flying south on Delridge! Glad to hear everyone got out safely.

    Comment by Delridge Resident — 5:37 pm May 1, 2012 #

  5. The sirens have been nonstop for about 15 minutes now. 911 log shows many were called out, including four engines three ladder trucks, aid, medic and life flight. I pray for the safety of everyone involved!

    Comment by garden_nymph — 5:40 pm May 1, 2012 #

  6. My absolute worst nightmare. Glad everyone made it out safely and noone was hurt

    Comment by T — 5:43 pm May 1, 2012 #

  7. Thanks for replying to my text asking what was going on; I live just a couple of blocks from there and suddenly heard a large number of sirens and a helicopter nearby. Seemed like something big. And I think I just heard the two additional engines go by.

    Comment by Becky — 5:49 pm May 1, 2012 #

  8. Medical unit just arrived. We live 3 blocks away.

    Comment by crowe — 5:55 pm May 1, 2012 #

  9. This is across the alley behind my house. The person who lives there is ok. Flames were shooting out of the roof.

    Comment by Amber — 6:02 pm May 1, 2012 #

  10. sounds like they just declared it under control, thats great.

    Comment by cjp — 6:16 pm May 1, 2012 #

  11. This is a good reminder for all to check that fire and smoke alarms are working. Glad to know no one was seriously injured.
    I reflect on the irony that no matter how advanced we are as a society, we are all still vulnerable to something as primitive as fire.

    Comment by Roger — 6:48 pm May 1, 2012 #

  12. Thank you to our community for well wishes and prayers. This is our grandmothers house and is filled with our family memories. Our uncle will be ok, we are grateful they got out in time. Thank you to those that called 911, the phone in the house did not work when she tried to call. Please keep them in your prayers.

    Comment by Deborah Mallett — 7:42 pm May 1, 2012 #

  13. The firemen have been fed pizza in preparation for their long night. Glad everyone made it out safe and thank you for hard working firemen and women.

    Comment by pizzagirl — 8:54 pm May 1, 2012 #

  14. @pizzagirl, it’s good to know that they’ve been fed! =)

    Thanks to all who helped, and are going to be helping, the family.

    Comment by happy — 9:59 pm May 1, 2012 #

  15. @ garden_nymph I’m guessing that you are referring to “Air9″ as a life flight. Just for information Air9 is the unit that they use for replacement air bottles (the ones they wear on their backs). There is also an Air240 which would be sent out on a second alarm.

    Comment by D.J. — 10:01 pm May 1, 2012 #

  16. Yes, thank you firemen and women. This really reminded me how valuable our firemen, paramedics and police are to the community. We forget that there is so much work after the fire is out. For the firemen, for the family. Deborah, please let us neighbors know if there is anything we can do to help.

    Comment by Amber — 10:07 pm May 1, 2012 #

  17. So sad for the grandmother. What a terrible thing to happen to her. I am glad shes ok just sad for the loss of a lifetime of memories. Please let us all know if she needs any help. I will be keeping her in my thoughts.

    Comment by Cclarue — 10:25 pm May 1, 2012 #

  18. Im curious to know why the phone didn’t work. Thank God for alert citizens.

    Comment by Alki Resident — 11:39 pm May 1, 2012 #

  19. DJ,
    Thank you for clarifying, there were many codes I saw but didn’t know, so I guessed…and was wrong. I was wondering were the chopper was planning to land. Heard a chopper too, but it was a news crew. Great work SFD! Deborah, may your Uncle heal quickly. I am sorry for the cherished items lost. My heart goes out to your Grandmother, Uncle, you and the rest of your family.

    Comment by garden_nymph — 12:35 am May 2, 2012 #

  20. Glad your Grandmother and Uncle are okay. It could have been much, much worse. Keeping all of you in my thoughts. Teri Ensley

    Comment by furryfaces — 11:15 am May 2, 2012 #

  21. I was one of the responding crews. I just wanted to say thanks to the person that brought the pizzas out to the crews. It came at a perfect time and all on scene greatly appreciated the wonderful gift. The support from the community never ceases to amaze and humble me.


    Comment by Jay — 11:26 am May 2, 2012 #

  22. You’re welcome. Thank YOU and your teams for all that you do.

    Comment by pizzagirl — 11:39 am May 2, 2012 #

  23. We just wanted to clarify, the fire inspectors from the insurance company determined that the fire was caused by a faulty outlet, and NOT from a cigarette. Thank you for keeping us in your thoughts and prayers, to all the neighbors that have helped and come by, and to the Seattle Fire Department for going above and beyond.
    The Mallett Family

    Comment by Deborah Mallett — 6:50 pm May 2, 2012 #

  24. Hi, Deborah, all we can do is quote what the Fire Department said – I hope that the insurance company has spoken with them so they can amend their report. Meantime, please e-mail us at if there is anything the community can do – I have received a few e-mails of people in the area who asked if there’s anything they can do to help – or post more info here – thanks for the update! – TR

    Comment by WSB — 7:10 pm May 2, 2012 #

  25. Hi Deborah,

    My mom is a friend of your grandmother’s. Glad to hear she is ok. Please let her know that Dorothy and Peggy are thinking about her and wishing her the best.

    Comment by observer — 7:20 pm May 2, 2012 #

  26. Big thank you to all the concerned neighbors and the hard working fire dept. Alot of memories have been charred,but our family is safe. We will rebuild,and continue to be a proud part of this community. If you know G-ma, even this tragedy can’t break her incredibly strong will. Again, thanks to all, and thanks for keeping an eye out.

    Comment by TM — 11:13 pm May 2, 2012 #

  27. Anyone know the name of the man that lives there?

    Comment by Curious — 11:45 am May 3, 2012 #

  28. Hi everyone, just want to get the word out that as neighbors and friends of the family, we are having a fundraiser hot dog & lemonade sale for the family this Saturday. Our front lawn at 8442 20th Ave SW, just three doors down. My husband will be grilling hot dogs from noon-5pm for a minimum donation of $2 and my daughter will be selling lemonade for donations. We have been in contact with the granddaughter and we will be giving all monies to her to give to Martha and her son. Martha was always very involved in the community and we hope that same community will come by and show their support.

    Comment by Lisa — 4:13 pm May 3, 2012 #

  29. OMG, we are so glad they they are okay. Our prayers are with you all!!

    Comment by liz whitney — 6:10 pm May 3, 2012 #

  30. I am so sorry for your loss!!! I am so sad that this could happen to anyone!! I am glad that everyone is ok. My mom told me about this and all kinds of memories came to mind.. I know that basement had baseball memories galore. If you need anything or just someone to talk to please keep me in mind, even tho I’m not the first person that comes to mind!!

    Comment by TJ — 10:32 pm May 3, 2012 #

  31. OMG we are so sad to hear about this happening to this terrific family. She has been there for us numerous times and we will be there for her in this crisis.

    Comment by Kay K — 10:35 pm May 3, 2012 #

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