UPDATE: Fireworks blamed for apartment-building fire at California/Myrtle

(WSB photos unless otherwise credited)

6:04 PM: We just happened onto this and SFD has just arrived.

The fire was burning in shrubbery in front of the building and spread to balconies.

(Photo by Julianne Davidson)

(Texted photo)

Passersby were hollering for people to get out. More…

More firefighters have arrived. The flames were roaring up the side of the building before their arrival. No word of injuries so far.

6:19 PM: Under control, damage mostly exterior, says SFD. Cause under investigation.

6:34 PM: They’re evaluating the interior to see if it’s safe for residents to go back inside.

7:15 PM: California’s still blocked at the scene by SFD units.

7:30 PM: SFD says it was started by fireworks. $100,000 damage estimate.

8:49 PM: Added two short video clips we recorded just before and just after the first engine arrived. Meantime, the incident log shows only 3 units still on scene, so California is likely passable again.

66 Replies to "UPDATE: Fireworks blamed for apartment-building fire at California/Myrtle"

  • Mo July 4, 2020 (6:08 pm)

    Wow literally just saw the firefighters whip pass my house you guys are fast. Hoping everyone ends up okay

    • WSB July 4, 2020 (6:59 pm)

      We were headed down the hill for our nightly ‘drive around and look at stuff’ when co-publisher saw the smoke. We got there before SFD. Guy was yelling for someone to get a hose. Bad memories – when I was a kid, our house burned 2 days before 4th of July. Flames move fast; the sight and sound haunts you forever.

      • ~Hockeywitch~ July 4, 2020 (7:11 pm)

        My neighbor set his mother’s car on fire in the carport under the building, arson, early morning in May of 1995… car was totally engulfed, fire spreading across the carport ceiling and up the side of our building. I woke up choking from the smoke in my room, called 911, got everyone out, but I remember just how fast the fire spread and the sound of the glass breaking from the car and the car next to it, the smell of the smoke, the complete panic.. It is NOT something you for get. Every time a Fire Truck or Engine comes to my building (the same building), I panic a little.

  • SB July 4, 2020 (6:14 pm)

    Could see from Thriftway area, flames from the roof and top floor.. hope everyone’s alright..sad thing to see.

  • Me July 4, 2020 (6:17 pm)

  • ~Hockeywitch~ July 4, 2020 (6:21 pm)

    Listening to the scanner… DANG!!! That and seeing the pictures. that could have gone REALLY BAD, REALLY FAST!! Great Job SFD!!!!

  • mok4315 July 4, 2020 (6:22 pm)

    My parents are right next door! They say it started in the brush.

  • West seattle fires July 4, 2020 (6:32 pm)

    This looks like the green acres apartment fire from 2017 on calif and Juneau. Started in the same kind of shrubbery below the deck/balcony. 

  • Jenna July 4, 2020 (6:35 pm)

    My husband and I were a few of those passerby’s hollering. Neighbors came out to help us get people from the building. Giving water bottles and chairs to those that needed it. I hope to hear no people or pets were injured!! 

    • Vanessa July 4, 2020 (9:01 pm)

      ‘Effing fireworks!! And I bet the person who set it off, NOW knows what it caused!  Stupid and careless. You could CARE LESS!😡

  • flimflam July 4, 2020 (6:37 pm)

    wow. definitely not hot enough for this to happen on its own – cig butt? fireworks? hope the dwellings aren’t smoke damaged.

  • Cass July 4, 2020 (6:45 pm)

    Thank goodness they got to it so quickly! I hope it will be found safe.

  • L July 4, 2020 (7:26 pm)

    According to SFD, this was caused by fireworks. https://twitter.com/SeattleFire/status/1279601941136338946?s=09

    • WSB July 4, 2020 (7:33 pm)

      Yup, that’s since we left. Just updated.

  • TM7302 July 4, 2020 (7:33 pm)

    Hmmm, fire started in the shrubbery outside of the building on July 4th, my money is on fireworks…

    • WSB July 4, 2020 (7:39 pm)

      So says SFD as commenter L notes. Other rumor was barbecue ash. Even when we’re not in a drought, fire moves fast … everybody please be safe tonight.

  • Ada July 4, 2020 (7:46 pm)

    Thank goodness for the SFD. That fire moved fast!

  • LivesInWS July 4, 2020 (7:51 pm)

    One more reason to enforce the fireworks ban. Too bad the perp who set that off can’t be found and made liable to pay for the damage he caused. 

    • S - in West Seattle July 4, 2020 (9:50 pm)

      You can’t enforce this and you know it. Everyone wants to defund the police they don’t have the man power and definitely wont have it if the City tries to defund.

      • heartless July 5, 2020 (8:51 am)

        So police can’t currently enforce it and will continue to not enforce it if we defund them?  Good to know!

    • Will July 4, 2020 (10:27 pm)

      So LivesInWs…how do you know it was a he?Watch your words. 

      Perhaps the “defund the police” people should be careful what they wish for.

    • Richard July 4, 2020 (10:57 pm)

      Personally I think it’s one more reason to bring back the safe n sane stands. Fewer people light fireworks than in the past but those who do are getting them from reservation stands, which sell the larger and more hazardous items. 

      • WSB July 4, 2020 (11:05 pm)

        The “safe and sane stands” never went away. They’re as close as a few yards south of the city-limit line (the one in the Roxy’s lot). And those can cause fires too.

  • miws July 4, 2020 (7:53 pm)

    I hope everyone is okay, and investigators can figure out who started the fire. I’m also curious as to what the fireworks fans think of this… —Mike

  • flimflam July 4, 2020 (7:55 pm)

    wow, from fireworks….ok, lets hear from all those “its just celebrating freedom! deal with it!” folks again. waiting…

  • Mike July 4, 2020 (7:57 pm)

    Amazing job by SFD.  That could have gotten really bad really fast.

  • oakley34 July 4, 2020 (7:58 pm)

    In 2020 accidentally setting a building on fire in the name of ‘fun’ or ‘freedom’ or ‘patriotism’ or whatever actually seems an appropriate reflection of what this nation has become. And smoke from multiple further ‘celebrations’ continues to waft through the streets, just blocks away from where this patriotic display occurred.

  • ArborHeightsRes July 4, 2020 (8:01 pm)

    When will Seattle start taking the use of illegal fireworks seriously?  It’s already a crime. The law needs to be enforced, even a few times. Folks would begin to know this won’t be tolerated. Perhaps some heavy fines will be a deterrent. My heart goes out to the people living in this building. What a horrible thing to have to endure in already very stressful times. 

  • Drew July 4, 2020 (8:09 pm)

    Great reporting WSB — spectacular photos.  And great job SFD for knocking it down fast.  My partner was on his nightly walk and came upon this as it happened.  Unfortunate that people are so careless with fireworks.

  • The Rog July 4, 2020 (8:56 pm)

    Does anyone know how to directly help those affected and/ or displaced by this?

    • Floreen Nair July 6, 2020 (9:47 am)

      Hi There! I’m one if the victim from that apartment. My apartment is the very bottom in front of the Bush where the fire started. My apartment is the one very badly damaged. And it spread so fast to the 4th floor within minutes. I’m glad I got my 10yr old son n my small dog just in time before it started in big flames. My neighbors got out all safe so it was a blessing. I know I won’t be able to get back inside for several months and everything is totally damaged. SFD gave each fami 5 mins to get back inside just to grab whatever so with the power off smoky black it was very hard to grab enough in 5 mins.Now we 4 families staying at motels paid by Red Cross.we all doing fine but miss our homes. I thought I let you know how we all doing! My contact information is Floreen Nair and my phon number is 206-234-5615 if any one wants to help us in some way.im so so glad that neighbors all came us to help us in tome if need that day! Felt blessed even after we lost everything

  • L July 4, 2020 (9:13 pm)

    You’d think the Eagle Creek fire in the Columbia river gorge would have been enough for some real enforcement to start… 

  • M July 4, 2020 (9:25 pm)

    This is a city owned building. 

    • WSB July 4, 2020 (9:43 pm)

      No, it’s not. It’s owned by the Seattle Housing Authority, which is an “independent public corporation” as noted here.

      • WTF July 4, 2020 (10:58 pm)

        Our Federal taxes fund SHA.Either way taxpayers are the ones footing the bill for this, and marginalized people are out of a home! 😞What’s the point of having municipal laws if the city refuses to enforce them!I’ve never comprehended the stupidity and balls it takes to shoot fireworks in residential neighborhoods; the fire danger to SOMEONE ELSE’S home is exponentially greater. Hypocrites who chastise others for acting entitlement, and then Fourth of July – there ya go!

  • Crystal July 4, 2020 (9:33 pm)

    Does anyone know how to help the residents who’ve been displaced? Where will they stay? What a terrible event for everyone, there must be some way to support them.

    • WSB July 4, 2020 (9:44 pm)

      Per a radio exchange with dispatcher, they were calling the Red Cross to assist one family/tenant, while the landlord (SHA) was helping others.

  • Carole July 4, 2020 (9:46 pm)

    And it has started. Seem to be a lot shooting off near The Charleston water tower.

  • Mj July 4, 2020 (10:10 pm)

    Fireworks are illegal in Seattle, I hope the perp is caught and made to pay restitution

    • Will July 4, 2020 (10:33 pm)

      With far far too few police in Seattle most perps are certainly not caught.  Anyone who wants more perps  caught should definitely be against defunding the police.  More police = more perps caught. 

      • Carrie July 5, 2020 (6:29 am)

        If we didn’t require police to do things like wellness checks, then they’d have time do the work they are actually qualified to do. Defunding the police means directing money where it actually makes sense. We don’t need an armed man showing up to a car accident. 

      • heartless July 5, 2020 (8:44 am)

        “Anyone who wants more perps  caught should definitely be against defunding the police.  More police = more perps caught.”

        That’s a good theory, and it makes sense on the face of it.  I wonder if you have any evidence it’s true, or is it just something you feel in your tummy?

        “James McCabe, a retired New York Police Department official who travels the country as a police staffing consultant, says there is little clear connection between staffing numbers and crime. “New York City made the conscious decision to reduce the number of cops,” he noted in an interview. “And crime continued to go down. It’s not what you have, it’s what you are doing with them.””

        That’s pulled from a recent article that looks at the issue.  Their conclusion?



        • Bill July 5, 2020 (6:58 pm)

          Aha! – I got it!  No cops === no crime!  Never happen tho — it would put too many lahyahs outta work!

  • Gxnx July 4, 2020 (10:36 pm)

    Boring amateurish fireworks
    Lots of noise
    What a f waste of moneyThe city should add 40% tax on all fireworks 

    • WSB July 4, 2020 (11:06 pm)

      They are not sold in “the city.”

  • Cranky July 4, 2020 (10:39 pm)

    the building is sprinklered, right?

    • WSB July 4, 2020 (10:58 pm)

      Don’t know. This was an *exterior* fire so I don’t know that they would have helped.

    • miws July 5, 2020 (8:49 am)

      As WSB points out, sprinklers may not have helped in this case, but, for the record, King County Parcel Viewer shows this 1970-built building as *not* having sprinklers. —Mike

  • Audrey Martin July 4, 2020 (11:06 pm)

    My family and I live directly up the hill from this building, so scary. Hope everybody involved is alright. :(

  • Plf July 4, 2020 (11:31 pm)

    So for all of those who said get a life it’s Fourth of July and get over iti challenge you with what went on today, folks who lost their homes please enlighten us on why This should happen and the continuation of your rights to shoot off fireworks do you really think the rest of us should stop whinny and you all continue to put lives in danger and terrorize vets and animals strep up and enlightenment us

  • Neighbors July 4, 2020 (11:40 pm)

    it seems very unlikely to be fireworks considering it started ground level.  its a weird spot for anyone to light off fireworks in that specific area there is no way they were doing them on California with that much traffic in the middle of the day. cant have came from across the street because they would have had to do it on the sidewalk no yards up or down myrtle orchard is too far away. Unless it was a sparkler that got dropped in the bush it doesn’t make much sense.

    • Wsguy123 July 5, 2020 (1:05 am)

      I was thinking it was someone lighting them off from a deck on site.

    • waikikigirl July 5, 2020 (8:26 am)

      Maybe a drive by thinking it’s funny to throw lit firecrackers out the window? Not so funny now is it, whatever it may had been hopefully whoever learned by this huge mistake.

  • ANDREA LISTER-PIERCE July 5, 2020 (12:13 am)

    Not to mention he kids and adults injured by setting them off every year.

  • 22blades July 5, 2020 (3:34 am)

    Hats off to the Seattle Fire Department; this almost sounds worse than previous years. My elderly father is calling me at 1am with fireworks hitting the window & landing on the patio (yes, he called the SFD). I’m impressed they came in with additional assets like wildfire fighting equipment. It would be even better if we could show some restraint but that’s asking a lot these days I guess.

  • Pop goes the firework July 5, 2020 (6:48 am)

    Maybe allow fireworks after 7 on the beach on the fourth of July.  That would free the police to go after other crimes such as people lighting fireworks in the neighborhoods.  You stop people from lighting on the beach and all you do is push them into the neighborhoods.  With so many fireworks stands you are not going to stop the fireworks.  People like to celebrate this great nation even if it is not the way you would want them to celebrate.  Just MHO.

  • Elizabeth July 5, 2020 (7:01 am)

    A lengthy and loud display right outside my window. Glad I was home to comfort my cat and dog. Glad no brush fire ignited.u. :-/ 

  • Rick July 5, 2020 (10:23 am)

    On a lighter note. I found a pair of gloves and burglary tools in the shrubs next to my building. Much better than a fire. Besides, the previous burglars were here a few months ago, destroyed the side door to break into the laundry room and actually blew up the coin box for a handful of quarters. Different kind of fireworks, I guess.

  • Sick of Fireworks July 5, 2020 (11:24 am)

    Why on earth would this be declared accidental?  It’s bad enough there is a refusal to enforce the firework ban or even try to enforce, a person died last year in West Seattle and 12 people became homeless.  Now this.  Since when is lighting explosives and tossing them randomly anything but arson? 

  • Use responsibly July 6, 2020 (7:46 am)

    Hey everyone. Most of the fireworks accidents are cussed by people being idiots and not using responsibly. Why do you have to ban? Why not just teach people to use responsibly? Why punish the responsible ones? Maybe just enforce laws against the idiots. These things should be common sense but I guess they aren’t. So teach people then? Fireworks should not be set off from apartment buildings. Go to a friend’s house. You should know someone who owns a house. Or if you must, go find a vacant lot or park or something. Not really allowed, riskier for yourself from the cops, but safer for property. Set up the hose before you start playing with the fireworks. Test the hose. Common sense. What’s wrong with people? If needed, wet down anything resembling kindling. Before setting off the fireworks. If the bushes aren’t wet, wet them. Should be common sense. If they had done even just one of these things, there would not have been a fire. Preferably do more than one of these things. Have multiple redundant fireworks safety rules and people can still be safe even if they bend a few. Most of the people hurt by fireworks were using them wrong. Most of them are idiots. Most of them are under 25. Why punish the over 25s becuase of the under 25s? There has got to be a better compromise than banning. The fireworks themselves are unlikely to have set off this fire. It was probably actually the fuses. Fuse sparks can easily light dry brush. So while you might not be able to hose down everywhere I firework may go to, you can at least hose down the area where the fuses are. Do not relight a failed firework. Do not light a too short fuse firework. Do not directly touch a failed firework. Like a failed bottle rocket, use a stick to take it out of the bottle, not your fingers. Either leave fireworks trash out all night to cool off, or soak it all down thouroughly. Do not hold the firework and your ignition source in the same hand. Do not light a fire work near your head. Do not light a fire work in an enclosed container. Do not light the wrong end of a firework. Do not light a spinner firework in a place where it can’t spin. Do not reuse a mortar tube too many times. Also ensure your mortar shell moves freely in the tube. Do not light a stuck mortar shell. Secure your mortar tubes to a flat level surface. Place mortar tubes under clear sky, no power lines, no trees. Soak all unexploded fireworks in water. Do not get too inebriated. Do not point fireworks at people. Yell something like lit when lighting a bigger one at night. All of those rules can be followed without hurting the fun at all. There are additional fireworks safety rules some of which are fun to break. Proceed with caution. For example, holding Roman candles. Tiny risk of failure damaging the hand. But fun. Should be minimized. If you follow these rules, you greatly reduce the chances of serious damage or injury. If you follow these rules, you will get more hurt from the lighter than the fireworks. So maybe a small blister on your thumb. No big deal. This stuff is not that hard. It should be common sense. Some of it is even written on the fireworks. If your residence is not a good place to set off fireworks, then go to a friend’s or a friend of a friends house. You can start fishing around for party invitations way ahead of time. When fireworks are used responsibly, they are no more dangerous than all the other things we do. If people are not using responsibly, the solution is to figure out ways to encourage responsible use. The solution is not to ban it on paper and then not really enforce that ban. The solution is not to actually enforce the ban either. It shouldn’t be that hard. You can raise the purchase age. You can require safety training. You can require warning labels with pictures. You can put out public safety commercials. You can provide safe places for people who can’t find a place. You can ticket a tiny percentage of people for offenses, as a deterrent to the others. If you need funding for any of this, 10% excise tax on fireworks should do the trick. There’s so many more ideas. Do some. 

    • miws July 6, 2020 (10:21 am)

      Use Responsibly, Please tell me your comment was sarcasm… —Mike

    • John July 6, 2020 (4:02 pm)

      An investigation from the Marysville Police Department determined it was an accidental death resulting from the premature explosion of a mortar-style firework.

    • Jaybee July 9, 2020 (10:18 am)

      Banning fireworks is common sense stuff. Nothing you say in your comment is common sense. Nobody shooting fireworks off in residential neighborhoods fires them at their own house- nobody. Why is that I wonder?we had someone drive into our neighborhood in a red sports sedan with tinted windows stop in the intersection of 31st and Othello at 3:15am on July 5th and launch about a dozen large loud boomers and a bunch of other pop and crackle fireworks. The mentality of the 4th of July firework nut thinks being responsible is driving to someone else’s neighborhood and shooting them off when it would otherwise be inconvenient for them and their neighbors. The reality is nobody wants to hear or see your fireworks. Not your neighbors or some other folks in a different part of town.When It comes to responsibility when does responsibility end? If you do everything correct and aren’t drinking alcohol and a Fire work doesn’t fire perfectly up into the air and goes over a neighbor’s home and injures or kills someone should you be held responsible? I don’t mind fireworks, but the ones being lit off around west Seattle suck. They’re far more annoying and dangerous than they are enjoyable to look at. If we don’t ban them The city should crack down on residential displays with major fines. Then offer a safe location and public calendar where firework nuts can go put on a public display all through the week of the 4th. At least then they’d be safe and somewhat of a more interesting display. Then if your firework goes errant and burns something down the city knows it was you and you can be the good responsible fire work nut and pay for the damage yourself.

  • anonyme July 6, 2020 (9:39 am)

    @Use Responsibly: yes, by all means, let’s “enforce the laws against the idiots”.  Where can you be reached?  And ‘@Neighbors’: clearly neither you nor Use Responsibly understands laws, including those of physics.  Fireworks do not just cause fires at the spot where they are launched, nor do they usually follow a straight up-and-down trajectory.  They most often travel in an arc, which then lands them in an uncontrolled and undetermined location – usually on someone else’s property, but dropping sparks and combusting material along the way.   How long is your damn hose?  I’m guessing it’s pretty short.  Are you tracking every single one, then following it, hosing down the area, and cleaning up the debris?  Yeah, right.  The notion that the firework that caused this fire must have been set in the immediate vicinity, and that it was impossible to launch one anywhere in the area is pure nonsense.  I have a patio covered with burned fireworks litter, where rockets clearly exploded over my roof and fell to the ground.  The closest display was on the next block.  I’m waiting for you ‘responsible’ fireworks advocates to get your a**es over here and clean it up.  There is only ONE responsible choice:  OBEY THE LAW.

    • miws July 6, 2020 (10:26 am)

      Anonyme, I fully agree with and support your comment, but have to admit that this gave me a chuckle: 

      How long is your damn hose?  I’m guessing it’s pretty short.


  • safe on my couch July 6, 2020 (10:24 am)

     “When fireworks are used responsibly, they are no more dangerous than all the other things we do.”—- like reading anonymous comments on WSB or watching TV!

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