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Firefighters battle 3-alarm fire in Ballard

Heavy smoke from building on NW Market St.
Photo Credit: John Odegard

SEATTLE – An employee from Super Cuts called 911 just before 12 p.m. on Oct. 7 reporting light smoke from a strip mall at the 2300 Block of NW Market St. When Engine 9 arrived on scene, they saw a haze coming from the ceiling of the building and quickly upgraded the response to a full alarm. They were able to determine the fire was in the ceiling and attic space above four of the businesses, and the only way to gain access was from the roof.

A second and and then third alarm was called bringing in over 150 members of the City’s fire personnel, which is approximately 65% of the department’s on-duty resources. Firefighters initially fought the fire from the roof, cutting holes in the ceiling to release toxic gases and smoke, and put water on the fire. When the building began showing signs of potential for collapse, the firefighters transitioned to a defensive attack. Ladder trucks put their ladder pipes in place and firefighters grabbed hose lines to begin attacking the fire from all sides of the structure. Smoke billowed out of the building as the roof began to collapse.

Residents in the immediate area were instructed to close their windows and doors to avoid exposure to smoke. At one point, the apartment building behind the strip mall was evacuated due to the heavy smoke in the air. The Office of Emergency Management sent out an AlertSeattle message on behalf of SFD to a 1-mile radius of the incident alerting the public of protective safety measures.

Building occupants were able to safely evacuate and there were no reported injuries to members of the public. One firefighter was transported to Harborview via SFD medics as a precautionary measure with minor injuries.

Firefighters battle 3-alarm fire in Ballard.
Photo Credit: John Odegard

Four businesses sustained heavy damage and are a total loss: Kitchen N’ Things, La Isla, Super Cuts and Coleman Jewelers. The Pho Vietnamese restaurant that borders Coleman Jewelers was also damaged from smoke exposure and water. The firefighters quick response and efficient tactics kept the fire from spreading to additional businesses in the strip mall. The Office of Economic Development was notified and is reaching out to businesses impacted and the building owner.

Fire investigators have begun their investigation and will return to the site on Oct. 8 to further assess the damage. Crews will remain on scene throughout the night to continue putting out hot spots and ensure the fire does not reignite.

FINAL UPDATE: Oct. 8 at 12 p.m.
SFD fire investigators completed their investigation at the site on Oct. 8 just before noon. Due to the extent of fire damage and instability of the structure, the official ruling of the cause will remain undetermined. However, they determined the fire most likely started from overheated electrical in the void space between the ceiling and roof. The fire started towards the back of the building at the northeast corner.

There is a large fire wall between the jewelry company and the Pho restaurant, which prevented the fire from further progressing through the strip mall. Investigators did not find evidence of any fire stops in the attic space of the structure that burned, which allowed the fire to quickly spread.

Total estimated loss is $1.5 million to contents and $1.5 million to property. Note: this number is just an estimate, and insurance companies will further determine the value of property and contents lost.

Firefighters will remain on fire watch until the building is no longer at risk for reigniting.

SAFETY TIP: ensure smoke alarms are working in facilities and have a fire escape plan in place. Visit our website for more resources.