Followup: Admiral Safeway fire – “Range hood did its job”

(Video shot as we arrived at Admiral Safeway while crews were checking out Sunday’s small fire)
With questions raised in discussion of the pre-Super Bowl Admiral Safeway deli fire, we wanted to follow up with Seattle Fire Department sooner rather than later, regarding what firefighting equipment was on hand and whether the store should have been evacuated. SFD spokesperson Dana Vander Houwen has talked with the crew that was on scene, and here’s what she just told us: The range at the store has an in-hood system that “did what it was supposed to do” – it’s got built-in chemicals that dropped down onto the grease fire and put it out, while also shutting off power. “The fire was out when firefighters got there,” she said, adding that they “checked for extension” – whether it had spread (that’s why you see firefighters on the roof in our video clip) – and it hadn’t. Regarding whether the store should have been evacuated, Vander Houwen said some smoke “vented” but the “smell of burning food” was the biggest consequence of the grease fire and it “wasn’t a life-safety concern.” (1:50 PM P.S. – The deli’s back open today.)

(P.S. Only related because it’s the same site, but we’re always looking for excuses to publish reminders – the next Design Review meeting for the Admiral Safeway redevelopment project is this Thursday, 6:30 pm, Youngstown Arts Center.)

1 Reply to "Followup: Admiral Safeway fire - "Range hood did its job""

  • luckylou February 9, 2010 (2:32 am)

    I was right there walking by as the fire broke out. The cook had added too much oil to the huge giant wok on the gas range in back and was letting it burn off after it caught fire. The employees in the deli were just watching it burn.

    The trouble was that the fire kept getting bigger and nobody had turned the fan on the giant hood over the range higher than it was already set, so very quickly the smoke was filling faster than it could be vented, so it naturally began to fill the deli.

    Simultaneously the fire itself had grown big enough that it was licking the plated walls, the seams between which were masked by metal bands which themselves were apparently stuck on by flammable material, ironically, because they quickly caught fire.

    All this time the employees shiftily watched, and one eventually began to call out that someone should call the fire department, although they were all clearly not doing anything about it.

    Eventually, and I mean way later, someone *walked* over a fire extinguisher from the other side of the store but by the time the guy got to the deli the range hood’s defense systems had finally kicked in and the extinguisher was not needed.

    It should be noted that at no time while this was happening was there any communication offered by store employees to customers. Patrons who walked by the deli were noticeably surprised/alarmed to be beset by ever-darkening smoke growing beyond the now smoke-filled the deli into the surrounding area.

    As I look back on it, I had figured at the time the hood could vent it all out quickly, the anti-fire systems would work, and all would be fine very quickly. It was surprising to witness it go so far and for the systems to kick in so very late. It was right on the edge of getting out of hand. Considering the range was gas-based, I realized far too late that if the systems didn’t work right there could even have been a serious explosion. I probably shouldn’t have moved to that nearest checkout line and continued watching but instead should have gotten the heck out of there.

    If you’re wondering why didn’t *I* call 911 myself, well, it’s weird. I really thought someone in the deli had to be trained to handle it and was just about to do something, and that the systems would kick in immediately, and that nothing could burn in that all-metal environment anyway. It’s a good lesson, because it could have gone the other way and I would have been in danger and directly for being that foolish.

    By the time the firemen arrived the flames were out and I was the one to tell them this as I left the store. There was a meek Safeway employee who said one thing to an early arriver but there was essentially no visible store management presence even then.

    The performance by the Safeway staff in all of this was very disappointing. From the cause of the fire to the deli people just standing there befuddled for so long to the total absence of any store management handling the situation fire-wise or communication-wise or even just redirecting customers away from the deli, it was a 100% fail.

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