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‘Derelict’ house burns in 10th Ave E fire — UPDATE: Reported violations

Thanks to reader Neil for the pictures

Seattle Fire’s mission late Monday night was to keep the flames from spreading as a smoky blaze burned through a 10th Ave E house cleared for long-planned demolition and a new townhouse project.

A 911 caller first reported the smoke and flames around 11 PM coming from the house on 10th Ave E between John and Thomas. SFD units arrived to find the two-story structure fully engulfed. With fire spread across both floors and the house’s “derelict” status, SFD deployed a defensive strategy to keep the flames from spreading to nearby structures and trees.

The fire was significantly knocked down after about 30 minutes but crews were on site late into the night dealing with the blaze. Firefighters reported having to remove plywood from the structure’s boarded-up windows to allow access to spray water on the flames.

UPDATE 11/27/19: According to city records the house that burned Monday night and at least one other nearby property also slated to be torn down have been the subject of recent complaints about violations of city code. “Drug vagrants have taken over a vacant house,” the most recent filed November 22nd reads. Another reported November 14th complains of “unauthorized occupants/camping, drugs, etc.” A longer complaint filed in October further documents the situation:

A picture of the scene outside the houses included with one of the complaints

Single family house was sold, boarded up and some misc possesions abandoned in the yard. The front and back yards have subsequently been invaded by trespassers who have trashed what was there and brought more junk in. I appears to be difficult to walk through the general and unsightly mess without the potential of injuring yourself. There is also waste from needles visible. Tresspassers tore off one solid railing from the front porch and dragged it to the front of the yard for some reason. Also one of the columns (of two) has been removed from the front porch roof and it may be in danger of collapse.

All of the complaints were listed as “under investigation” by the city as of Monday’s fire. Earlier this year, CHS reported on the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections increasing fees on developers who let properties sit empty and go derelict. Properties are to be inspected at least three times under the program. If inspectors find no violations, the owners will be charged at the lowest monitoring fee rate. Properties must have no violations for three consecutive monthly inspections in order to be removed from the program. The new legislation also raised the vacant building monitoring fees by 3%. It’s not clear if the 10th Ave E properties are subject to the new rules as permitting for a planned development project on the land began before the changes went into effect in June.

There are also efforts underway to find ways to put empty buildings to better use while they await demolition. Last year, CHS reported on efforts to study better methods for monitoring the city’s steady of flow of vacant buildings including the possibility of formalizing a program to match landlords of vacant buildings with organizations that can temporarily put the property to use in housing programs like Weld Seattle and Mary’s Place or with arts groups coordinating with the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture to house an art space.

It wasn’t clear what had sparked the fire in the boarded house set to be part of a six-townhouse development project from Shelter Homes. There were no reports of anybody inside the structure and no immediate reports of injuries.

Temperatures dipped into the 30s overnight.

During the response, SFD advised neighbors to stay inside and close windows and doors to prevent smoke inhalation. The department said it would knock on doors if evacuation was needed.

UPDATE: Seattle Fire says its investigators were unable to determine a cause for the blaze:

Crews were on scene until 01:50 a.m. 9 AM for fire watch to ensure the fire was completely knocked down and did not rekindle.

We can confirm no one was hurt and no occupants were found inside the building. Our fire investigators were unable to determine the cause of the fire and estimate damages to be approx. $5,000 to a neighboring apartment building that sustained heat damage. According to SDCI, their records indicate the building is vacant and scheduled for demolition. Therefore, we do not calculate damages for it.

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5 thoughts on “‘Derelict’ house burns in 10th Ave E fire — UPDATE: Reported violations

  1. That empty house has been such a disaster in the making, with its ever morphing trash piles and a transient population coming and going. Scary dangerous for neighbors and firefighters. Who’s accountable for all these empty houses waiting to be demolished, sometimes for years? Wasn’t there going to be some fee imposed on new owners who left properties undeveloped and untended? Crap trend.

    • When it takes 2 years or more to get a permit from the Seattle building department, these thing happen unfortunately. The best thing that could happen would be firing everyone at the building dept and start over, the situation is pathetic, not to mention the U D report that the Seattle building department adds 300k of cost to each home built. I no longer am willing to work in our fine city.

      • This house was sold mid summer after renters split, so empty for about a year. It’s not the empty pink house next to locksmith that also had a fire. Also, it does not take years to get a building permit. The process of a developer buying a property, designing a project, lining up funding, the bidding process, etc., takes a while. The DPD is not always the hold up.

  2. There’s a big old yellow house on Harvard Ave E between Harrison and Thomas that is suffering from the same issues. It was once a 4-unit home. Now it’s a shooting gallery and garbage dump. Needles on the sidewalk every time I walk past on the way to work. No sign of development other than more plywood over the front door. Pathetic that the city can’t do more to expedite permits or fine owners who own properties that blight the neighborhood.