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Vacant building fire in the University District

Photo by John Odegard

Seattle — At 4:08 a.m., the Seattle Fire Department’s Fire Alarm Center received 911 calls reporting smoke and flames coming from a vacant commercial building at the 5500 block of University Way NE. The first firefighters on scene confirmed heavy smoke and flames breaching through the roof. Crews opened up the main entrance and immediately encountered flames at the doorway. Forcing firefighters to transition to a defensive strategy by pouring water on the fire at a safe distance away from the building.

Photo by John Odegard

Firefighters received reports from bystanders of a missing person last seen on the roof of the building. Crews searched the roof and the perimeter of the building, but were unable to find the individual. Crews were unable to enter the building because the roof began to collapse.

Firefighters had the fire under control by 5:15 a.m., and a few units remained on scene to monitor for flare ups. Crews are consulting with engineers from the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections to determine whether it is safe to search inside the building for the missing person.

No additional injuries were reported, and the cause of the fire is under investigation.

UPDATED July 24 at 6 p.m.: Firefighters worked with an excavator to conduct a search of the building where they recovered a body matching the description of the missing person. Incident is under investigation.

UPDATED July 25: Seattle Fire investigators ruled the cause of the fire as incendiary (intentionally set). We continue to work closely with the Seattle Police Department’s Arson and Bomb Squad to share information regarding the investigation.