West Seattle, Washington
FIRST REPORT, 8:51 AM: Our apologies for failing to cover today’s 3:40 am fire call in real time. Several people have asked about it, and this is what we have found out so far this morning: While Seattle Fire sent a “full response” to this house on 16th SW near Cloverdale, it was an “exterior fire that extended into the home,” quickly extinguished, according to SFD spokesperson Lt. Harold Webb. Everybody got out before the SFD units arrived, he says; no one was hurt. Lt. Webb is awaiting the investigator’s report on the cause, and we’ll add that information here when it’s available.
3:58 PM: Just in from Lt. Webb – the fire was ruled accidental, sparked by “hot ashes in a trash receptacle” that “ignited next to the house and extended into the house.” Damage is estimated at $70,000.
3:52 PM: Seattle Fire is sending a full-size response to the 4500 block of SW Hill in North Admiral [map] for a possible house fire. More to come.
3:55 PM: First unit arriving reports some smoke. This is about two blocks west of California SW so should not have major traffic effects outside the neighborhood streets.
4:03 PM: Haven’t heard a full update yet, and our crew is still en route, but some units are already being dismissed.
4:20 PM: Photo added. SFD says it was a kitchen fire, no injuries.
10:11 PM: A large “fire in building” response is arriving at an apartment building in the 5600 block of California SW. More to come.
10:21 PM: Sorry the website jammed up for a bit. This is a kitchen fire, per scanner, and already “tapped.” One person has been taken out of the unit where it happened but is NOT reported to be seriously hurt.
10:30 PM: Some of the units are already being dismissed since it turned out to be a small fire. Whenever a fire is reported in a residential building – and this was initially reported to have generated a lot of smoke inside the building – a large response is sent, as it could be a matter of life or death to send too few units and have to add more later, rather than to have too many and have to cancel some.
10:34 PM: Our crew at the scene confirms that no one was seriously hurt and that it was a kitchen fire, albeit a very smoky one. The units on scene will continue to clear out and California SW should get back to normal within a half-hour or so, SFD tells us. And we’ve confirmed the log address is correct, 5656 California SW – the building’s name is Green Acres.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Today was the original deadline for the owner of 9029 16th SW to either demolish the charred remains of a house that had caught fire at least three times in five years, most recently February 25th, or to show it is “not unsafe.” We reported the March 28th deadline in this followup on March 2nd, five days after the latest fire.
Since then, we have been going by to check on its status, and after still not seeing signs of demolition by late last week, checked the Department of Construction and Inspections page for the case, and discovered the property’s owners had been given an extension, to April 21st.
What the online-file notations don’t show is why. So we contacted SDCI spokesperson Bryan Stevens, who replied:
The owner is trying to find a way of bringing both structures down, so we’ve offered an extension of the violation case to allow for the necessary steps to make that happen and conduct the demolition all at once.
While the fire-damaged property can be removed with an over-the-counter permit, the second building cannot. The Land Use Code requires vacant residential structures to be maintained unless there is a complete application under review to allow redevelopment and a completed plan for waste diversion. The owner made an application last week to comply with this provision. This effort demonstrates progress towards resolving the violation and allowed us to grant an extension while the final details are sorted out.
The “second building” is on the alley behind the main house, and was not involved in the February fire. The city had ordered the owner to “secure” it, and as shown in a photo in our previous followup, it had been boarded up.
The city files, meantime, show the application for the redevelopment project, described as “mixed-use,” was officially accepted today. And SDCI spokesperson Stevens reminds us of something that we noted (with extensive backstory) in that March 2nd followup – the city is looking to change the rules to make it easier for owners to demolish vacant/derelict properties. We’re checking to see if there’s a current estimate of when the proposals are expected to go before City Council.
8:41 AM: Went over to find out. Our crew talked with firefighters, who say it turned out to be a small kitchen fire in an apartment.
7:28 AM: As first mentioned in our traffic report, Seattle Fire has sent a “full response” to an apartment building at 2331 42nd SW. Units arriving are NOT finding a fire, so far.
7:30 AM: Via scanner, firefighters report this was a “dryer fire” and it’s out. They’re dismissing most of the responding units.
7:42 AM: “Small dryer fire” confirmed by our crew after arrival, just as more firefighters were leaving. This was in the apartment building over the Admiral District Bartell Drugs. No injuries reported.
Six months after the three-alarm fire at the Lam-Bow Apartments complex (6955 Delridge Way SW), the building left “unsalvageable” (as the Seattle Housing Authority deemed it) is being demolished. We just went by for a look, after two reader tips (thank you!). SHA spokesperson Kerry Coughlin had told us in January that they were waiting for permits so they could tear it down, and now the work is under way. The September 27th fire displaced more than 40 residents; no one was hurt, and investigators never determined the cause, just that the fire started on the building’s exterior. Coughlin told us this afternoon: “Rebuilding will not start immediately and we don’t have any plans or details. We had to get the damaged structure down as soon as possible but need due diligence time to make sure we maximize the opportunity to replace.”
12:54 PM: A “full response” is on the way to a possible house fire in the 5600 block of Delridge Way SW [map]. More to come.
12:59 PM: Police are being called for traffic control – avoid this area of Delridge TFN. Via scanner, fire crews report “water on the fire,” and then seconds later, it’s reported to be under control/”knocked down.”
1:09 PM: The fire is now reported to be “tapped.” No word yet on injuries; we’re waiting to hear from our crew at the scene. County records confirm the address on the fire log – 5618 Delridge Way SW, a single-family house built in 1943. And if you’re hearing a helicopter in the area, that’s TV.
1:24 PM: Our crew reports that the three people who were in the house got out OK, no injuries, but they lost one cat (possibly two) in the fire. There’s more damage in the back of the house than the front.
Some units have been dismissed but there’s still a major SFD presence in the area – Delridge is likely to be closed in the vicinity for at least another hour, we’re told – and we’re expecting to hear soon from SFD’s public-information officer at the scene.
2:10 PM: Metro says that Route 120 is back to its regular route southbound, but still rerouted NB between Brandon and Juneau.
3:43 PM: Metro says Route 120 is fully back to normal.
(UPDATED THURSDAY AFTERNOON with identification of victim)
5 AM: The house is described as “fully involved” (in flames) with wires down.
5:05 AM: Per scanner, SFD says
everyone is out of the house and they are fighting the fire in a “defensive mode.” They’re calling for more crews.
5:14 AM: We’ve added the first photos from our crew. SFD is now not certain everyone is out after all.
5:24 AM: They’ve called for the Red Cross to come help three people described as adults. Meantime, if you’re hearing a helicopter, it’s TV.
5:49 AM: Fire crews report continued progress on what’s left of the fire. They’ve called for the investigator as well as the chaplain. Media has just been briefed by SFD spokesperson Alice Kim, who confirms three people got out OK – one with minor injuries – and that there are as-yet-unconfirmed reports someone might still be in the house; they’re searching.
5:55 AM: Our crew says hoses were run to 45th and 100th, which explains why Metro says Routes 21 and 22 are rerouted from 44th and 100th, a block-plus south of the fire.
6:22 AM: Media at the scene is being kept back from the house. Per scanner, firefighters are trying to search from outside; hotspots are reported to be flaring up on one side. Wires were reported down in the early going; the City Light map says six homes are without power in the area.
6:55 AM: Seattle Fire now confirms that one person has been found dead, described as a “middle-aged woman.”
7:15 AM: Still a large SFD deployment on the scene, two and a half hours after the first report. Here are new photos from our crew:
SFD says the woman was found dead in a bathroom on the first floor of the house and that firefighters had to cut through two walls to reach her.
8:26 AM: More units are leaving the scene. Here’s what’s visible from the alley behind the house:
We’re uploading video from the most-recent briefing at the scene by SFD spokesperson Kim. (added:)
We’ll be checking back at the scene later this morning.
11:59 AM: We asked the local Red Cross about help for the family. Colin Downey replied, “Red Cross volunteers did respond to this morning’s tragic fire. They provided assistance for three people to help meet immediate needs, which can include emergency lodging, food and clothing. Our caseworkers will continue to follow-up in the coming days.”
5 PM: We went back over a while ago. A Seattle Fire engine was still on “fire watch” – after most major fires, at least one unit is usually kept at the scene for some time in case of a flare up. SFD, meantime, says it has not yet been able to determine what started the fire, “pending further information” – but estimates damage as worth $400,000. The woman found dead in a bathroom has yet to be publicly identified.
ADDED THURSDAY AFTERNOON: The victim is identified by the King County Medical Examiner’s Office as 51-year-old Lori Ann Stapleton. The KCME says she died of smoke inhalation.
7:10 PM: A “full response” is on the way to Fauntleroy and Juneau for a possible fire in a multifamily building. Crews are starting to arrive. More to come.
7:13 PM: Crews have traced it to a “small rubbish fire” in the alley by an under-construction townhouse project. They’re calling for the SFD investigator.
7:42 PM: Just back from the scene. The fire was in a pile of “combustible materials” under a stairwell on the alley side of the construction project. The incident commander considered it suspicious enough to call in the investigator, who arrived a few minutes ago. Police are talking to neighbors. No major damage and no injuries.
ADDED MONDAY: We followed up with SFD, whose spokesperson Alice Kim said, “Our Fire Investigation Unit members ruled the Fauntleroy/Raymond incident as undetermined, either caused by a careless disposal of smoking material or a handheld flame. SPD was notified.”
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Months before firefighters were called to engulfed-in-flames 9029 16th SW early Saturday morning (WSB coverage here), the 98-year-old house was charred and partly boarded up.
As we reported that morning, the Seattle Fire Department had sent “full responses” there for fires in 2012 – blamed on a cooking fire started by squatters – and in 2015. Neighbors wondered why what was left of the house was still standing.
As promised, we followed up.
First – the city Department of Construction and Inspections tells WSB it has issued two orders to the property’s owners since last weekend’s fire. One orders them to seal up the building on the rear of the site, deadline today. We went back to the house late yesterday and indeed found that happening:
The other order is to tear down what’s left of the burned-out main house, which now looks like this:
SDCI spokesperson Wendy Shark told WSB, “If the owner does not take steps to remove the fire-damaged structure quickly, additional enforcement action will ensue.” As for what “quickly” means, she said, “The owner must demolish (it), or obtain an engineer’s report showing the building is not unsafe, by March 28, 2017.” If they don’t? “Once the compliance date is past without compliance, the files may be referred to the Law Department for additional enforcement.”
As we also noted the morning of the most-recent fire – the cause of which could not be determined by SFD – a redevelopment proposal is on file for the site. While a mixed-use plan was filed with the city in September, county records show ownership was transferred from an individual to an LLC (with whom the same individual is listed as associated) in December, and no further activity on the proposal is shown in online files. But a document in the system related to the September proposal includes this notation by a representative for the ownership:
There is an abandoned structure on site, and might have been occupied by homeless people. The owner has got couples phone calls from city about this issue. We are wondering whether we could demolish the structure as soon as we submitted building permit.
The files don’t show how that question was answered – or even whether it was answered; the proposal had not progressed to the building-permit application stage. (We have an inquiry out to the person listed as a contact at the time. An update: The document with that inquiry, while related to the September proposal, carries the date February 17, 2017.) But it brings up the long-running issue of city policy regarding tearing down dilapidated, dangerous houses like this. It’s an issue almost everywhere such houses stand – we wrote about it back in 2009, when a North Delridge community advocate led city leaders on a tour of problem properties.
In this November 2016 Seattle Times story about the issue, it was mentioned that the city was considering changing the rules. So we asked SDCI’s Shark about that. She pointed us to this page of the city website, where proposed changes are detailed in this draft ordinance. Among other things, its summary says it would:
Demolition of Unfit Buildings (SMC 22.208.020)
Establish an expedited process for ordering the demolition of a vacant building that can be documented as hazardous.
Demolition of Housing (SMC 23.40.006)
In instances when a final redevelopment permit has not yet been issued, reduce the length of time that rental housing must sit vacant before a demolition permit can be issued (from 12 months to 4 months), and expand to apply to commercial, industrial, and multifamily zones (in addition to single-family zones)
Shark says the City Council “will likely consider the legislation next month.”
Meantime, what’s left of 9029 16th SW is still standing as of our last check about half an hour before we published this story. This type of structure poses a special hazard to firefighters, who had to make the call upon arrival Saturday morning to deal with it as a “derelict” structure, fighting the fire “defensively.” SFD spokesperson Kellie Randall told us the assessment is made on arrival, as part of a policy developed under SFD Chief Harold Scoggins. No one was injured, and firefighters found no one in the area upon arrival, but because of how ferociously the fire was burning (see our photo atop this story), people in neighboring residential buildings had to be evacuated for a while, for fear it would spread.
We’ll continue to watch the situation, especially whether it gets demolished before the aforementioned deadline.
(Editor’s note: Updated at 1:49 pm to reflect the February 2017 date of the development-proposal-related document asking about demolition possibilities.)
1:40 AM: A big response is arriving at a house fire reported in the 9000 block of 16th SW [map]. The first crew on scene reports flames, according to a report radioed to dispatchers. More to come.
1:46 AM: Firefighters are working “defensively” on this – fighting it from the outside.
1:54 AM: They’re calling for two more engines. We’re waiting for our crew to verify the address on the SFD log, which also had a fire call in May 2015; there’s a redevelopment proposal for the site.
2:03 AM: We’ve verified the address. And our files also have a 2012 fire call at the same house, which is shown on Google Maps, in a photo dated a few months ago, as mostly boarded up. There’s also a history of complaints about the property’s condition.
2:22 AM: SFD’s investigator is on the way to start the work of determining how the fire started. Our crew says firefighters still aren’t sure if anyone was inside the house, which is officially listed in property records as a triplex (with a foreclosure last year), when this started.
2:50 AM: Firefighters confirm they used what’s known as their “derelict building” procedures with this. Also, residents were evacuated on both sides of the house, because of the risk the fire might spread, but that risk is now past and some are being allowed back in.
3:17 AM: We’ve added more photos, and video. Some of the SFD units have been dismissed but others will be on scene for some time.
11:20 AM: No information yet on how the fire started; SFD spokesperson Alice Kim did confirm that the building was “unoccupied at the time of our arrival.” We did go over for a daylight look at what remains of the house and have added the photo above.
ADDED MONDAY: SFD says today that its investigators were unable to figure out what started the fire, because the structure was unsafe to enter.
3:12 PM: In case you saw/heard the big response for a potential house fire in the 8400 block of 20th SW (thanks to Alan for the tip), most of the units were canceled quickly, but we’re on the way to see what we can find out.
3:21 PM: At the scene, firefighters tell us this was a small kitchen fire. No major damage, nobody hurt, and the remaining crews are working on clearing out the smoke right now.
11:28 PM: Seattle Fire has sent a “full response” to a house fire in the 3200 block of 42nd SW [map]. Early word is that flames were seen in the basement and that everyone is out OK. More to come.
11:35 PM: Fire is “knocked down,” per scanner. No injuries reported. Our crew should be there soon.
11:40 PM: The fire’s now reported “tapped” and whatever was the source of the fire (“small contents”) has been removed. They’re evaluating to ensure that the fire did not extend to any part of the actual structure.
11:53 PM: Fire’s out and it indeed has been confirmed to have NOT spread to the structure itself. Firefighters are working right now to help clear smoke out of the house so its occupants can go back inside. Many of the units from the initial big response have been dismissed.
8:55 PM: Seattle Fire has sent a “full response” to Bridge Park at 3204 SW Morgan in High Point. First units on scene report it’s a laundry-room fire on the first floor.
9 PM: To be precise, per scanner, it’s a dryer fire, and it’s out. No injuries reported. Most units are being dismissed. The ones staying behind will be clearing smoke from the first floor, but report that’s the only floor affected.
4:57 PM: A sizable Seattle Fire Department response is arriving in the 10200 block of 38th SW [map] in Arbor Heights for a possible house fire. First crews are not seeing anything, though. We’re on our way and will be updating.
5 PM: SFD crews have radioed that this was a kitchen fire and is now out, so many of the units are being canceled.
5:06 PM: Our crew on scene confirms this. Firefighters say it was a grease fire and the resident(s) extinguished it. No significant damage, no injuries.
Just mentioning in case you saw the Seattle Fire units and/or heard the sirens: What was briefly a “full response” dispatch to the 4500 block of SW Director in Fauntleroy has been scaled back to one engine. Instead of a house fire, it turned out to be a problem with a food smoker.
7:17 PM: If you’re wondering about the Seattle Fire crews across from the Bathhouse – the call at 2700 Alki Avenue SW is for a chimney fire. Not a major call – one engine and one ladder truck on scene – but it’s a high-profile location, in the business district, so we’ve received a few texts wondering about it.
8:12 PM: SFD has left and the call is closed.
(UPDATED WEDNESDAY with suspected cause, damage estimate)
1:35 PM: SFD units have arrived and are assessing. They’re reporting “heavy smoke.”
1:44 PM: Our crew has just arrived. Also, per scanner, firefighters have rescued a dog from the house.
And if you see/hear a helicopter, it’s just a TV crew checking this out.
1:50 PM: SFD has declared the fire to be under control. Our crew at the scene tells us a cat also was rescued – photo added.
1:55 PM: SFD’s investigator has arrived to look into how this started. The people who live there were not home at the time but they have now arrived too, and SFD is starting to dismiss some of its units.
4:18 PM: No word yet on the cause.
WEDNESDAY, 11:29 AM: Here’s what SFD believes happened:
Fire Investigation Unit concluded that the fire was most likely caused by a natural gas-powered stove. The fire ignited surrounding combustibles and adjacent cabinets in the kitchen. The estimated damage and loss is $200,000.
12:38 PM: Arriving crews report “moderate smoke” coming from the house.
12:45 PM: As Sharon points out in comments, the SFD response has blocked Alki Avenue both ways, so steer clear of the area until further notice. Meantime, via scanner (our crew is still en route), crews are reporting that the fire has extended into the house’s attic, but they’ve “knocked down” that part of the fire from inside.
1:04 PM: Photo added (and we confirmed that the house number on the SFD log, 1728 Alki, is the house where the fire happened). People were home when this started, but everyone got out OK and no injuries are reported. SFD tells us that early information indicates this is woodstove-related. A sizable section of Alki SW remains blocked because at least one hydrant line is running more than a block.
1:16 PM: Above, that’s a photo of the aforementioned line to a hydrant (now being rolled up). SFD is still assessing the extent of the damage, as they’re checking the walls and attic.
2:18 PM: The online incident report indicates the last few crews on scene were finally dismissed about 10 minutes ago, so the road should be back open now. And thanks to Steve Quant for this photo of what firefighters were dealing with at the peak of the fire:
We’re not likely to get a final report on the cause/damage before tomorrow.
1:40 AM: The photo is from Sofia, who explains a Seattle Fire call to the Menashe Family Lights on Beach Drive Friday night – trouble in the Nativity scene: “We were just looking at lights as usual, and noticed white fog coming from behind the Virgin Mary. I thought it was a fog machine, but then we realized it was a fire. Several of us called 911, someone knocked on the Menashes’ door and let them know, the neighbors got water. I guess the straw that was part of the stable scene caught fire.” We’ll be checking with the family later this morning to follow up.
12:06 PM: We just followed up with Jack Menashe. He says it was apparently a problem with old wiring in the manger display, and it’s being fixed, but tonight, the manger will instead be illuminated with a spotlight. Everything else is OK, so if you’re going for Christmas Eve, don’t worry, it’ll all be bright as ever.
ORIGINAL REPORT, 1:25 PM: Seattle Fire is responding to a call characterized as a “minor explosion” near Fauntleroy and Alaska. At least one witness say it’s blown off a “manhole cover” near Spruce/LA Fitness. Power is out to more than 3,200 homes and businesses in West Seattle as a result, according to the City Light outage map. More to come.
1:32 PM: This has escalated to a “vault fire” callout.
1:38 PM: Adding a photo. Lots of emergency vehicles and big traffic backups, so avoid the Fauntleroy/Alaska area TFN.
1:49 PM: City Light says they hope to restore power “within a few hours.” SFD has canceled some of the units responding to the vault fire (for the commenter who asked what that means – it’s an underground vault that’s part of the electrical system). No word of any injuries so far.
1:55 PM: Now up to more than 3,900 homes and businesses out – this is on the City Light map as two separate outages, 3,200+ and 600+. Adding a screengrab momentarily for the record:
1:59 PM: And then … some got their power back, so the outage has returned to 3,200+. Thanks for the updates in comments – that’s usually first word of power restoration!
2:12 PM: Commenter Matt shared the photo you see above – the smoke coming from underground right in front of Spruce/LA Fitness just after explosions were heard. Meantime, the number of homes/businesses without power is down to 1,820.
2:33 PM: Seattle Fire has completely cleared the scene, meaning the fire is out. In addition to those still without power – an outage also affecting some traffic lights in the area – we also have several mentions that Comcast service is out.
2:52 PM: Just added above, our upload of Matt’s video (linked in comments) of the vault smoke from earlier. Meantime, more comments are saying power’s back, even in the immediate vicinity. Thanks for the updates!
3:55 PM: Down to 136 out, per SCL map.
9 PM: Five hours after that note – they’re still out. Meantime, a Spruce resident has published video from the aftermath of what happened this afternoon:
9:22 PM: Minutes before the estimated time of restoration, the power’s back for all, according to the City Light map. (Call SCL if yours is NOT back yet!)