UPDATE: House fire in Arbor Heights ruled ‘accidental’; resident, firefighter hurt

(UPDATED 5:22 PM with fire’s cause)

(WSB photos unless otherwise credited)

10 AM: Seattle Fire is reporting smoke and flames as it arrives at an Arbor Heights home in the 10200 block of 38th SW [map]. One person is reported to be hurt and they’re calling for an additional medic unit.

10:08 AM: SFD says the patient is being cared for. Our crew will be on scene shortly.

(Added: Photo sent by Charles)

10:11 AM: Per scanner, the fire is under control “in a shed” adjacent to the house.

10:17 AM: Our crew says firefighters are cutting into the roof – ventilating – to continue fighting the fire.


They also say the patient is male and appears to be conscious; (update) scanner indicates he’s 62 years old and likely suffering from smoke inhalation. Scanner traffic indicates they’re bringing in more engines for additional water supply. Also, our crew tells us a TV helicopter is now in the area.

10:24 AM: Per scanner, they’ve had to run a hose on SW 102nd from 35th so they’re asking to close off 102nd to protect it.

(Added: Photo sent by Debra)

(Please stay away from the fire zone in general anyway.)

10:43 AM: We’ll be asking SFD spokesperson Lt. Sue Stangl, who is now on scene, about the water situation. As discussed in comments, multiple Arbor Heights fire hydrants were upgraded in 2011 after flames destroyed a house while firefighters lost time awaiting supply. Meantime, scanner discussion indicates part of 35th may be blocked in the area too – so if you have to get to or from Arbor Heights, the further WEST you can stay, the better, for now. Meantime, SFD’s investigator has been dispatched to look into the fire’s cause.

10:50 AM: Lt. Stangl says a firefighter also was hurt, a leg injury suffered apparently on what was reported to be an unstable deck at the house. She confirmed that the 62-year-old man with smoke inhalation lives at the house. The fire is now tapped. Regarding the water supply, she said that they brought in additional engines so that they could run at the highest pressure possible – Arbor Heights does have uneven supply (as noted in our 2011 coverage, some hydrants are atop smaller mains, though some of those also were upgraded in 2012).

11:23 AM: Our crew’s back and uploading the video of Lt. Stangl’s briefing so you can hear what she had to say about the water, the fire, and the people who were hurt. We also have questions out to Seattle Public Utilities, which is responsible for water mains and fire hydrants. Meantime, photojournalists including ours were taken around to see the major fire damage:

The resident who was hurt was overcome by smoke inhalation while trying to put out the fire himself, Lt. Stangl said.

12:05 PM: The audio in our video of the briefing is unfortunately mostly unintelligible because of the TV-helicopter noise. We’ll be following up with Lt. Stangl for further explanation on what firefighters had to do. Meantime, we’ve added a few more photos to this report.

12:21 PM: Just talked with Lt. Stangl by phone. She says that coincidentally, the incident commander on today’s fire was the same one from the 2011 fire nearby and was already familiar with the area, as are many of the crews, and with the plans for dealing with fires in the area, so that plan was implemented. She says there was not a supply shortage at any time – they did not have to use extra water from the backup engines. Lt. Stangl also noted, as we now recall learning in 2011-2012, that if necessary, SPU can reroute water supplies around the city to make higher flows available in any given area if needed, but they did not need to request that in this case, either. We’ll update again later when we hear from SPU about our questions relating to the overall hydrant status in the area.

1:34 PM: In case you wondered – SW 102nd is open again, but 38th SW remains closed, in the vicinity of the fire.

3:37 PM: We just spoke with SPU’s Andy Ryan, who reiterates that there were no problems with the hydrant system today. As per city standards, everywhere in the area is now no further than 1,000 feet from a 1,000-gallon-per-minute hydrant. The ones closest to today’s fire are 500 and 600 gallons per minute, he said, and there are 800-gpm hydrants nearby. (The WSB archives include this map from 2013 showing remaining 500-gpm hydrants around West Seattle, and this explanation of how they figure into firefighting. The hydrants’ exact addresses are listed here.)

5:22 PM: And we checked back with Lt. Stangl to ask about the fire’s cause: Accidental – the resident was doing some work in the garage, spilled some fuel, a table fell over, and “fuel vapors” were ignited.

damageclose (1)

Damage to the structure is estimated at $55,000, and $18,000 to its contents. We don’t know the resident’s condition but she says the firefighter is already out of the hospital.

25 Replies to "UPDATE: House fire in Arbor Heights ruled 'accidental'; resident, firefighter hurt"

  • lina June 20, 2016 (10:08 am)

    sounds like a big response, lots of aid coming down 35th.  Thanks WSB again for your speedy reporting.  I heard the trucks, went on the blog (always my first spot to go for info) and you had this up already.  Hope everyone is ok, thoughts are with the family and neighbors nearby.  

  • ocean June 20, 2016 (10:28 am)

    Not enough water?  Wasn’t the “not enough water / water pressure” problem in this area fixed after it was discovered during a house fire a few years ago, just blocks from this fire?

    • WSB June 20, 2016 (10:31 am)

      I’m looking up the history of this particular area to make sure I am appropriately quoting the standards to which it was upgraded after the infamous house fire. We’ll also be asking the public-information officer, who should be arriving shortly.

      • ocean June 20, 2016 (10:34 am)

        Thank you, WSB!

      • Tad Davis June 20, 2016 (10:48 am)

        As far as I know, the hydrant in front of our house (California and 106th) was the only one in AH upgraded to a new hydrant/line after that fire a couple of years ago. There were eight people in suits standing around the one guy digging in the hole for the photo op. If your hydrant is not bright yellow, they almost certainly did not upgrade yours or the line.

    • Linga June 20, 2016 (11:00 am)

      If you consider hanging a red plastic ring on hydrants that are rated “low flow” by SPU then yes, multiple hydrants in the Arbor Heights area surrounding 41st Ave. SW and 102nd St. were upgraded following the fire in 2011.  The hydrant in front of our neighbor’s house sports one of these rings.  I guess it’s suppose to reassure residents that a “low flow”, aka no flow hydrant is not a problem.

      • WSB June 20, 2016 (11:05 am)

        Hydrants that are still “low flow” are labeled as such because they are on smaller water mains. However, as I’m reminded digging further into the archives of our coverage in 2011 and 2012, water mains were upgraded as well to get to the point where every place in AH meets the standard, which is to be within 1,000 feet of a hydrant with “fire flow” – more details in this story:


        Seattle Public Utilities is accountable for mains and hydrants so I am contacting them about any remaining “low flow” hydrants. – TR

  • Amanda June 20, 2016 (10:34 am)

    My pets are not loving those helicopters hanging out above… 

    • WSB June 20, 2016 (10:38 am)

      Those are only TV helicopters – there are no helicopters involved in fighting the fire – just FYI. But since some stations do 11 am broadcasts, don’t be surprised if they hang out until (or come back for) the top of the hour …

      • Amanda June 20, 2016 (10:52 am)


  • @MattGilbezy June 20, 2016 (10:35 am)

    When do we start a pool for the yearly Arbor Heights house fire?  This is getting ridiculous.

    Thank you WSB for always bring the news 

  • Linda Givler June 20, 2016 (10:39 am)

    Helicopter is still circling around North Shorewood.  Thank you WSB for the quick report

  • Larry June 20, 2016 (10:51 am)

    The helicopter has left the area.

  • Mongo June 20, 2016 (10:55 am)

    Not having adequate water supply and working hydrants, again (or still), is dangerous not only for residents but what about the new elementary school?  This fire is 1/2 block to the new school.   WSB, any comment from our new City Counsel representative?

  • Phil June 20, 2016 (11:19 am)

    My tap water is brown now … any ideas WSB? 

    • WSB June 20, 2016 (11:22 am)

      When hydrants are run, brown water is not unusual in nearby areas – revving up the water flow stirs up the sediment (which as we learned in the mostly-Admiral situation, is basically rust).

  • j June 20, 2016 (11:47 am)

    As you read they had to run a hose from 35th Ave to 38th Ave then down mid block. 

    However, the hydrant THREE houses to the south and across the street was not tapped until after waiting for water from 35th and I’m assuming 39th. When I say “waiting” I mean fire trucks pulled up. Hoses ran multiple directions. Fire hoses  lay flat without water for several minutes (at no fault of the firefighters. They did an excellent job) 

    Once water was flowing from several blocks away the firefighters turned their attention to the hydrant mentioned above that is THREE houses away. Firefighters hooked up the hose and were cracking the nut to release water when a commanding officer walked up and said “We don’t think that one works. Test it first.” They then tightened the nut. Disconnected the hose and fitting. Loosened the nut to release water. After judging the flow of water coming out with questionable looks on their faces they were told to hook up to it because “at least it was water” regarding how low the flow was. Water should shoot across the street when a hydrant is opened. This one didn’t even spray 5ft.

    There is a serious issue in the neighbor that was supposedly addressed. 

    I think we need to reassess the status of the hydrants. 

    What happened today is unacceptable. 

    • WSB June 20, 2016 (11:56 am)

      And that’s what I am asking SPU about.

  • Brad Herman June 20, 2016 (1:00 pm)

    Wsb, looking for your opinion. I’ve lived in this neighborhood a few months shy of 20 years. Sidewalks, power poles, water issues, etc…

    How can we get these blatantly obvious issues corrected? We’re not a low taxed neighborhood, it would seem that we would get similar attention to the Northside of West seattle. 

  • j June 20, 2016 (1:50 pm)

    To all the crooks who might want to come snooping around. We’ve got one of the best block watches in the city, the alley is under video surveillance and game cams are being set up.

    Don’t even think about it! 

  • pat davis June 20, 2016 (4:04 pm)

    Given it seems that a fair number of fires in W. Seattle are put out by neighbors prior to the fire dept getting there…..one near here:  took them almost 10 minutes to get there (although the fire station is in N Admiral (the location of the fire was mere blocks away)  the crew was at Alki Beach. How long did it take for a response.  With a fire even a few minutes can change the entire outcome.

  • flimflam June 20, 2016 (4:17 pm)

    lots of fires in garages lately…echoing the other comments about the water situation. that is a very basic safety need in any neighborhood.

  • Gene June 21, 2016 (10:38 am)

    So just to clarify- since yo seem to be criticizing Pat- while the fire station closest to the fire you’re speaking of is ” mere blocks away” – the crew itself was at Alki- & it took them 10 minutes. Do you know what they were doing at Alki? Maybe they were finishing up to a response there.? 

    Hard to believe they wouldn’t have been there sooner if they could have.

    • ltfd June 21, 2016 (5:56 pm)

      Gene, date? and approximate time of day? With that information, computer aided dispatch records can be consulted for: 911 call time, unit response time, etc. When, and where did the incident occur? Allegations are interesting, facts are more revealing.

Sorry, comment time is over.