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Seattle Fire battles basement blaze in boarded-up Federal Ave house — UPDATE

Flames charred a portion of a 1902-built house destined for demolition and subject to multiple complaints about squatters in a Sunday night fire on Federal Ave E.

There were no reported injuries and Seattle Fire says a search of the structure revealed nobody inside the two-story home set to make way for a townhouse development across from Lowell Elementary School. The fire and smoke were first reported just before 8:30 PM.

Neighbors say there have been multiple complaints made to the city about the property developer’s failure to secure the structures to keep out squatters.

In April, an emergency order directed the property owner to secure the house “against unauthorized entry” including ensuring “plumbing and electrical fixtures, wiring, and service lines” are safe — or removed.

According to a complaint lodged last week, the house was apparently “secured” with trespassers still inside:

The vacant building at 609 Federal Ave E was re-secured earlier this afternoon. The second- floor entry on the back of the building was boarded up again. It seems though that the building was occupied at the time of re-securement. We heard thumping noises at 2:06 pm and called the SPD non- emergency line. This quickly turned into an emergency call to 911 five minutes later when I observed two people attempting to lower themselves down from a rope from the third story window. A potentially fatal fall seemed likely onto the pavement below. Five SPD officers responded, engaged with the four trespassers, and were able to safely did them down with the help of a ladder provided by Seattle Fire Ladder 10. The third story window remains open to the elements and the four trespassers were sent on their way. This is SPD incident #20-159279. We are again requesting that this building be either properly and finally secured or demolished as soon as possible. This is a waste of our time, a continual safety and nuisance issue for the neighborhood, and a waste of time for the SPD and Seattle Fire. Their resources should not be wasted having to address the situations these unsecured and vacant buildings continue to present.

Seattle Fire said Sunday night’s blaze started in the building’s basement.

According to county records, Henghua Investment purchased the house for $1.65 million in 2018 as part of a deal to acquire a portion of the block for the townhouse development. Permits for b9 architects show a plan for two 4-unit townhouse buildings and parking for seven vehicles. A demolition permit for the property was approved in August of 2019.

UPDATE 5/19/2020: SFD says investigators have ruled the cause of the fire as “accidental” and tell CHS it broke out in the corner of the basement “from activity of someone occupying the abandoned structure.”


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11 Comments
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Glenn
Glenn
11 months ago

Rather than focusing on the property owners, why not talk about the trespassers, who are breaking the law by entering this private property? Yes, this is a waste of the fire dept an SPD’s time. But who is responsible for that? The property owner or the trespasser? Pretty easy answer for me. This is like blaming the homeowner who failed to lock their door instead of the burglar who chose to enter and steal everything. Priorities in the wrong place.

RWK
RWK
11 months ago
Reply to  Glenn

Completely agree! The squatters were “sent on their way” by SPD. They should have been arrested and prosecuted. It’s called the “rule of law.” When criminals get away with something, it only emboldens them to continue their illegal ways.

More than a little worried
More than a little worried
11 months ago

Gotta go with Glenn and Bob Knudson here. We’re becoming a take-what-you-want-when-you-want culture. Shoplift $949 worth of stuff? Be my guest. Break and enter? Right this way, sir. The package on my porch catch your eye? Take it, friend!

Not sure how this ends well.

dftl
dftl
11 months ago

Public caning? At least there would be some type of accountability.

More than a little worried
More than a little worried
11 months ago
Reply to  dftl

That seems barbaric. And prison seems extreme. I am a HUGE fan of community service.

More than a little worried
More than a little worried
11 months ago

I say this as a response to a first or second offense. Repeat offenders can FRO and go to jail.

Somebody
Somebody
11 months ago

Isn’t this only an issue because the city makes it nearly impossible to demolish buildings in a timely manner?

Eric
Eric
11 months ago
Reply to  Somebody

The owners ALREADY have a demo permit. Since August of last year.

Cappy
Cappy
11 months ago

Squatters burn down a building and get sent on their way…I jaywalk and get ticketed and fined (yes, really). Something seems a bit off.

Jim
Jim
11 months ago
Reply to  Cappy

Yup. Just a symptom of post-modernist politics. You are, I’m assuming, a relatively law abiding, tax paying citizen. The squatters are drug addicted, thieving, amoral folks, otherwise known as a member of the oppressed and victimized population that is ultimately a characterization of the noble poor. You are the privileged one, and they are, regardless of their upbringing or opportunities, the “marginalized” and oppressed ones and as such should not be further persecuted for their crimes that are only a result of people like you and I oppressing into things like “jobs” and “contributing to society”. Which are, obviously, a result of the patriarchal, capitalist, white supremacist conspiracy.

Robert
Robert
11 months ago

I live in this neighborhood and every house that is boarded up for demolition quickly fills up with squatters who apparently suffer no consequences for their actions. We have homeless going through our trashcans, our dumpsters, our backyards. It’s not safe and the majority of these homeless are under 40 years old, have either an addiction issue and/or mental health issues and do only come to this neighborhood because of the large amount of boarded up houses and buildings. Developers (largely from out of state) have decimated this area – buying up house after house, boarding them up and then eventually replacing them with hideous boxes. This neighborhood is gone. Soon it will be nothing but ugly boxes that go to the lot-line, maximizing profit and disregarding any sense of neighborhood. What’s worse? Aggressive homeless who manage to get away with everything, or the decimation of a 120+ year old neighborhood replaced with Soviet style blocks of ugliness?