UPDATE: Cause of deadly Arbor Heights house fire not yet known

(UPDATED THURSDAY AFTERNOON with identification of victim)

(WSB photos unless otherwise credited)

4:55 AM: A full Seattle Fire response is arriving at a house fire in the 9800 block of 44th SW [map]. More to come.

(Added: Photo sent by Trista)

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.

51 Replies to "UPDATE: Cause of deadly Arbor Heights house fire not yet known"

  • LyndaB March 8, 2017 (5:07 am)

    Hearing all of the sirens roll by in 35th.   Praying everyone is ok and safe.  

  • @MattGilblezy March 8, 2017 (5:13 am)

    Glad to hear everyone got out and I hope the hydrants are workings.  

    Sad to see that our yearly streak of house fires is continuing.

    Thank you WS Blog for bringing us the news

    • WSB March 8, 2017 (5:18 am)

      They are now not so sure everyone is out after all, unfortunately. As for supply, they are running the hoses quite a distance.

  • ~hockeywitch~ March 8, 2017 (5:21 am)

    All the sirens woke me up, going up 35th…here come a few more…

    I hope everyone is ok. Just heard on the scanner that they were looking for someone on the “Charlie” side and or in the basement. 

    Please let everyone have gotten out.

    • WSB March 8, 2017 (5:26 am)

      There have been conflicting reports. The public-information officer has been sent, so we’re going to hold off on anything more about that until there is an authoritative report.

  • Kelby Schrock March 8, 2017 (5:24 am)

    Sounds like a helicopter is out above. 

    • WSB March 8, 2017 (5:25 am)

      Yes, it’s a TV helicopter.

  • Seattle1 March 8, 2017 (5:24 am)

    Started hearing the sirens pull out of station 37 at 4:55 on 35th ave sw. Sirens kept coming every few min. 

  • Seattle1 March 8, 2017 (5:47 am)

    Komo 4 reporting that a family member from the house has reported they “don’t think their mother got out ok”. 

  • Carol Kowalski March 8, 2017 (5:52 am)

    praying for everyone. the emergency lights are very bright looking

    from Southwouth

  • EJ March 8, 2017 (6:27 am)

    WSB- does the tv media listen & respond to you? They are reporting this as in Fauntleroy…  I can see it from my house in Fauntleroy & it’s definitely in Arobor Heights as you are reporting….

    hear from the news the elderly mom may have not made it out… thoughts and prayers to the family…

    • WSB March 8, 2017 (6:32 am)

      Non-local media make neighborhood mistakes all the time (more commonly describing large swaths of southwest West Seattle as White Center). I don’t know what they are saying and don’t care – we are covering this at the scene, where more importantly, SFD *has not yet confirmed* whether there is a fire victim. The search is difficult because the fire is not yet out, as we have noted above, and their spokesperson says they will likely be at the scene for hours – TR

      • EJ March 8, 2017 (7:02 am)

        Good point…

  • Stephanie March 8, 2017 (6:34 am)

    Thanks for the info. We live just across 100th and have been wide awake from the sirens and helicopters. Really hope everyone’s ok. 

  • 41st March 8, 2017 (6:38 am)

    Heartbreaking start to the morning!  My thoughts are with the family of this home.   I know it’s not all that important,  but wanted to add that being 3 blocks away, we now have brown water coming through our pipes.  Just a word of caution for those nearby.  

    • WSB March 8, 2017 (6:44 am)

      There’s also a small power outage in the area, reported as six homes. Since they are still putting water on the flare-ups, you might have the water problem for some time.

      • WSB March 8, 2017 (6:55 am)

        And now SFD has just confirmed one person is dead. Updating the story.

  • Kristin March 8, 2017 (6:59 am)

    Such sad news.

  • Neighbor March 8, 2017 (7:25 am)

    So very sad.  Sounds like a very fast fire.  Several houses away we awoke just after 4:30 to people yelling get out get out get out.  Those people undoubtedly saved lives.  By the time fire trucks arrived, live cinders were landing over the neighborhood.  Sincere thanks to our brave fire fighters and police officers this morning.  Thanks also to WSB for keeping us posted and letting us know how we can help the bereaved family.

    • WSB March 8, 2017 (7:31 am)

      It was reported as “fully involved” shortly after the dispatch. No official word yet on the cause but online records indicate the house is 80 years old. Meantime, the Red Cross was reported to have been called in to assist the survivors and we will be checking with them this morning – as you probably know, this is one of their signature services (remember the Lam-Bow fire in Delridge?), and you can certainly donate to help them continue to cover such costs, pending any word of specific needs for this family. – TR

  • tj March 8, 2017 (7:28 am)

    our heart and prayers go out to this family.  thank you to all the firefighters and first responders.

  • West Seattle since 1979 March 8, 2017 (7:30 am)

    This is so sad and awful. Condolences to her family and friends.

  • Ligia Wiegand March 8, 2017 (7:41 am)

    This is terrible. Was it a family? Pulled out of my driveway this morning and saw everything. My heart goes out to these people. I walked past that house every day with my dogs. 

    • WSB March 8, 2017 (7:51 am)

      SFD spokesperson Alice Kim says one of the survivors is the victim’s son.

  • ~hockeywitch~ March 8, 2017 (8:14 am)

    Such awful news. My heart goes out to the family for their loss. And to the firefighters that tried so hard to get to the lady. 

    So sad :'(

  • JB Smith March 8, 2017 (9:13 am)

    Just saw Engine 5 (Alaskan Way station) heading down 35th (no lights or sirens) – perhaps providing relief to an engine company on site. There were a substantial number of engine, ladders, and other SFD support vehicles that traversed 35th early this morning…sad about the loss of life in this incident. 

  • unknown March 8, 2017 (11:13 am)

    This is so sad, you never know when a loved one is going to be taken from you and you must never take life for granted…my condolences to the family.



  • face March 8, 2017 (1:21 pm)

    heart wrenching:(

  • Alki Resident March 8, 2017 (1:47 pm)

    This was my friend who died. She was trapped in upstairs bathroom. Her boyfriend tried to get her out through the roof but everything happened so fast. Her son also tried to no avail. 

    • WSB March 8, 2017 (1:58 pm)

      So sorry about your friend, AR. Others already said this but please post if there’s anything people can do to help. – TR

      • Alki Resident March 8, 2017 (3:42 pm)

        Thank you, she’s waiting for it to be a misunderstanding. Family and friends are with her and will be her wings but thank you everyone who may have offered anything. 

    • Jesse Fox March 8, 2017 (8:51 pm)

      My sincere condolences to this family. What a heart breaking situation. I cant imagine.

  • family friend March 8, 2017 (3:34 pm)

    this was my friend too. so very tragic and sad. sad for her and for her son to lose his mom, and sad for her mom who also lost another child (her brother) tragically somewhat recently.  God bless their family.

  • Merry March 8, 2017 (8:37 pm)

    This was my best friend. My heart goes out to her mom and three kids. I will forever miss her.

  • Jess March 8, 2017 (9:40 pm)

    We are neighbors and we are here if there is anything you need. Now and in the future. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  • Bernie March 8, 2017 (9:56 pm)

    A friend since junior high. She endured so many challenges in life but always prevailed because of her strength and fortitude.  I have so many great memories of our shenanigans and laughter.  My condolences to her family especially her mother who has survived both her children’s untimely departure.:(

  • Anonymous March 9, 2017 (5:50 am)

    As a family member, I want to thank those of you who left kind comments.  Please keep her mother in your prayers and thoughts.

  • rob March 9, 2017 (7:46 pm)

    i live across the street from this house and there has been no one looking into what caused this fire 

    • WSB March 9, 2017 (8:35 pm)

      The SFD investigation unit was there once the fire was out that morning. We heard the dispatch and saw them ourselves. Their site work may be over; “pending further information” can mean a variety of things. And some fires’ causes are never determined.

      • JC March 10, 2017 (1:09 pm)

        My son and I drove by it as we live a few blocks away.  The house looks like a total loss from the looks of it.   So sad and my heart  goes out to that family.  I am also curious as to what started it.  I know the house is old so maybe electrical, but what baffles me is how quickly this spread.   Fire does double in size every 12 seconds, but still, the flames spread a lot faster than that.  

  • Vanessa March 10, 2017 (2:16 pm)

    Where were/ are the garbage cans and recycle bins sitting? 

  • Hannah March 11, 2017 (2:31 pm)
    The following was just posted this on Nextdoor.com. Since many people are asking how they can help, we are re-posting here.  BTW, there were two families impacted by this tragedy (the family of the woman who perished in the fire and owner of the home and her family), as well as friends and neighbors:
    Update:  Kari, my husband Gerardo and I met with the owner of the Arbor Heights home destroyed by fire and her older adult son, who was living with her, this morning. They are doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances and are very heartened by the outpouring of support from the community and want to express their gratitude. They have temporary accommodations for two weeks in a local motel but then need to move to a place for a longer term. The homeowner has been advised that it will take at least one year to work through insurance and the process of rebuilding her home. 
    We now have the info Hannah needs to set up an escrow account in West Seattle for donations to the homeowner and will post here once it is ready (should be early next week). 100% of all donations collected will go to the homeowner. 
    Meanwhile, here is the immediate needs list since the financial help the Red Cross has given has all but been used up and they are having to eat out for every meal:
    * For the female homeowner, who is a senior, clothing and toiletries are needed. Basic colors preferred. Most urgent is a warm coat (size 10 or 12), like a down parka or thermal coat. Also needed are Woman’s knit cap, Walking shoes (brown, 8.5 Med); Crew socks (brown, white, tan); dark blue jeans (size 12); Shirts / T-shirts (Med to Large); Pajamas (Med). Gently used items are fine and/or gift cards to department stores in West Seattle or South Center. Also, gift cards to neighborhood drug stores so she can buy toiletries and meds would be very helpful.
    * The adult son also needs a warm jacket (M), hoodie (Med or Large), shoes (8.5 Med), jeans (30-32), warm shirts (flannel in Large), socks, pajamas, and baseball cap. 
    * Grocery or restaurant gift card(s)
    We will be happy to collect these items from you and then deliver them. Please email or text Hannah or Kari to arrange pick-up.
    If you know of an affordable two bedroom condo in West Seattle for the homeowner to rent, please also private message Hannah or email Hannah@LivingInSeattle.com. The rental would need to allow one cat. Once the homeowner is moved in, she will be able to accept the generous offers for household donations. More on that later.
    Finally, the owner’s cat is missing. She’s black with white socks. We hope she is fine and, if found, I understand that someone has offered to care for her. If not, please contact Kari or me if you’d be willing to foster for a short period.
    Thank you again, everyone, for being such great neighbors.
    Hannah, Gerardo and Kari
    Hannah Nerbovig Hannah@LivingInSeattle.com, (206) 650 5909
    Kari Saybe ksabye@hotmail.com (719) 229 7702
  • rob March 16, 2017 (7:53 pm)

    has there ever been an up date on the cause

    • WSB March 16, 2017 (8:31 pm)

      Not so far. I am asking the SFD media liaisons again tomorrow when I follow up about today’s Delridge fire.

      • JC March 18, 2017 (10:23 pm)

        Any update on the cause yet?

        • WSB March 18, 2017 (10:27 pm)

          I didn’t get a chance to ask on Friday so it’s still on my list for Monday (along with the cause of the smaller but still notable Delridge fire last week).

  • April Johnson March 20, 2017 (7:59 pm)

    And Waiting….      

    • WSB March 20, 2017 (8:03 pm)

      Made the request first thing this morning, SFD’s media liaison told me at end of day that they’ll have some kind of reply tomorrow. Best I can do.

      • WSB March 21, 2017 (2:27 pm)

        Cause still not determined, per SFD. But they say it’s believed the fire started in the kitchen. – TR

  • neighbor March 28, 2017 (4:09 pm)

    Any word on how the fire started? 

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