Cause of 2-alarm fire in the Chinatown/International District ruled “undetermined”

Photo by John Odegard of the Seattle Fire Buff Society

June 25, 2020 at 4:35 a.m.: Dispatchers in our Fire Alarm Center received multiple calls reporting visible flames and black smoke billowing from the second floor of a three-story commercial building on the 800 block of S. Weller St. Engine 6 was the first company to arrive on scene and confirmed a working fire that quickly accelerated to well involved. Engine 5 and Ladder 3 arrived shortly after to coordinate with Engine 6 to get water on the fire and search the fire room. However, when they attempted forcible entry into the fire room, they reported the ceiling and floor were becoming unstable. At 4:42 a.m., the Deputy Chief arrived on scene, assumed command, then immediately ordered everyone to evacuate the building. He upgraded the response to a 2-alarm where nine engines, four ladder trucks and additional support units were dispatched.

By 4:50 a.m., fire fighting efforts transitioned to a defensive strategy where crews positioned outside the building poured water on the fire in order to prevent it from spreading to neighboring buildings. Command asked Seattle City Light to turn off electricity to the building, Seattle Streetcar operators to shut down the electrical grid that flows through 8th Avenue South and Puget Sound Energy to turn off natural gas to the building.

Unfortunately, the fire spread through the whole structure, eventually causing the roof to collapse as well as sections of the third floor. We were able to get the fire under control by 6:34 a.m. and no injuries were reported. Crews remained on scene throughout the day and into the next morning to extinguish flare-ups.

Fire investigators are currently unable to determine the cause of the fire and are unable to safely enter the building due to concerns for structural integrity. After interviewing witnesses, they do not believe the fire was intentionally set. Estimated loss is $2,500,000.