West Seattle, Washington
4:47 PM: Big initial response for what turned out to be a small fire this past hour at a house in the 4900 block of SW Hanford (map). Metro says Route 57 is rerouted until SFD units clear. We’re checking on the fire’s cause.
4:59 PM: Firefighters at the scene tell us it was a small electrical fire but they stayed around a while to monitor and be certain it hadn’t spread. They’re certain now, and getting ready to leave, so the road should reopen before long.
8:21 AM: Seattle Fire is sending a “full response” to a possible house fire reported in the 7300 block of 30th SW [map].
8:33 AM: Turned out to be an unfounded report, and the call has closed.
8:42 AM: On the way back, we stopped by Station 37 to verify what we had heard on the scanner – they confirmed that before they closed the call after looking around the area, they had talked with the original caller, who said the smoke he had seen was gone. This kind of call is one reason we don’t report exact addresses of fire scenes until we can confirm them in person – sometimes the real-time SFD log shows an approximate or reported address, and might not be corrected for some time (if you see an address on the log that’s in all capitals, it means the address has changed since the original report).
3:51 PM: If you’ve heard the sirens or seen the smoke (one texter said it was visible from Westwood Village) – Seattle Fire is arriving at a van fire at 27th and Roxbury. The dispatch started fairly sizably because there was concern about “exposure” – possibly to a nearby structure – but per scanner, that didn’t turn out to be the case, and the response is being downsized. We’re still on the way to check it out.
3:59 PM: Fire’s out.
4:05 PM: Talked to firefighters. No one hurt. The possible “exposure” – concern about the fire spreading – turned out to be the tree under which the van was parked, as you can see in the photo we added above.
6:47 PM: Seattle Fire is calling out a “full response” for a possible house fire in the 9000 block of 12th SW [map].
6:50 PM: The response is already being downsized.
7:02 PM: Our crew reports that while there’s some smoke, there’s no sign of fire, and the SFD units there haven’t even rolled out the hoses. Photo added above.
7:28 PM: Firefighters tell us they traced the smoke to a kiln that was in use. No fire, no injuries; they’re ventilating so the resident can go back inside.
Some promising news about one of the stops set for Thursday night’s Find It, Fix It Walk in Highland Park. It’s the long-closed, arson-damaged restroom/storage building at Riverview Playfield. As we’ve reported previously, community members are concerned that the building has yet to be fixed and reopened, almost a year after last year’s arson -and at one point were told that it might be up to six years before repairs could be funded. But Christina Hirsch of Seattle Parks tells WSB that funding for repair and restoration has been secured. Hirsch told WSB’s Randall Hauk that the Seattle Park District has approved $202,000 for the work.
Parks will now work with city purchasing and contracting on details for the management of the project. Though there is no set deadline yet for completion of repairs, Hirsch says the hope is to finish by the end of the year. She adds that the schedule and scope of the project will be posted on the Riverview Playfield webpage as it becomes available. Meantime, portable restrooms will remain in place at the much-used fields until the permanent facility.
P.S. If you haven’t already seen it, the route, starting place, and other information about Thursday night’s walk – starting at 6:30 pm from Highland Park Improvement Club (where you can gather starting an hour before that) – is here.
11:54 AM: Seattle Fire has sent a “full response” to a possible house fire in the 9200 block of Delridge Way SW. More to come.
11:57 AM: The first arrivals in the area have downgraded the call, canceling most of the dispatched units. Scanner discussion indicates steam from shingles might have been mistaken for smoke.
The end is finally near for 9029 16th Avenue SW, the South Delridge house that’s been the scene of three fires in five years, most recently February 25th. One month after a demolition permit was issued, heavy equipment arrived today. Just yesterday, we had sent an inquiry to the city Department of Construction and Inspections, which had ordered the owner to take care of the situation and then issued an extension to April 21st. Since as recently as yesterday afternoon (we’ve been going by to look every day or two), there was no sign of activity, we asked the city what would happen if it didn’t happen. The online log for the site shows yet another complaint filed by neighbors as of about a week ago. While writing this update, we just heard back from SDCI spokesperson Bryan Stevens, who says the city’s been told that demolition will start tomorrow. (If you see it any sooner, let us know – we’ll go by again later.) There’s a redevelopment proposal for the site, described as a “mixed-use building.”
5:19 PM: A big Seattle Fire response is arriving at a vacant building in the 9200 block of Delridge Way SW, where they’re finding smoke but so far no obvious source.
5:27 PM: Most of the responding units have been canceled.
5:37 PM: Photo added. SFD says the fire started in a trash can or similar receptacle outside the house. Firefighters also confirm a fire here a few years ago – (update) our archives show one person died in that fire in June 2014.
5:53 PM: The 2014 fire also killed four puppies, as noted in a followup. We’re checking records for the address, 9222 Delridge Way SW, and have found only two items, both 2015 complaints about alleged unspecified violations of the city’s vacant-building ordinance.
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.