Five killed in Fremont apartment fire

Updated 10 p.m. Five people have died, four of them children, in an apartment fire at 41st. NW and NW Leary St. this morning. “All of sudden I heard, ‘Fire!'” said one woman who was with the family in the apartment as they prepared to attend UW’s graduation this afternoon. “I went to go save the babies, but the thick smoke, it was just too thick, too much fire.”

When we arrived on scene shortly after the fire department, a woman was screaming, “My babies, my babies!” as neighbors worked to restrain her from running back into the burning apartment. Confusion reigned as family and friends tried to find out if the children were safe.

One of the missing kids was located by neighbors. She was brought into the arms of her distraught mother. Five others were lost in the fire: a 5-year-old girl, a 6-year-old boy, a 7-year-old girl, a 13-year-old boy and a 21-year-old woman. The man who was graduating today at the UW was among the residents who tried to beat back the flames with a garden hose.

Some residents were angry, yelling to the gathering media that the fire department took too long to arrive, get organized and enter the apartment. “It took them 20 minutes to get here,” Lisa said. “We had to break windows out. We had the hose out. I’ll never be the same after today. Never. Never.” Another neighbor said the delay was after firefighters arrived. “It took a very long time to get water. There were bumping into each other,” said Cynthia. “All I could think of was, where’s the ladder to go up there?”

Fire Chief Gregory Dean said the first two units to arrive at the scene both experienced difficulties. The first arrived 5 minutes after the 911 call, but it had a mechanical problem with pumping water. Engine 18, a Ballard-based unit, was checked this morning but failed on the scene, Dean said. The second company, Engine 20, arrived two minutes later at 10:11 a.m. and was the first to put water on the fire. Engines 17 and 21 arrived one minute later at 10:12 a.m. and Engine 9 arrived at 10:13 a.m. Others followed soon thereafter.

Dean confirmed a comment posted by a My Ballard reader earlier this morning: the second responding company, Engine 20, lost a hose while driving across the Fremont Bridge en route from North Queen to the fire. “One firefighter was injured,” Dan said. “They dropped some hose, he went to get it, and he injured himself in the process.” The engine stopped to quickly remove the hose from the roadway, and a firefighter injured his back. The engine had left the station at 10:06 and arrived at the fire at 10:11 a.m.

Photo of Engine 18 about to be towed away several hours after the fire.

“Every moment counts in a fire,” Chief Dean said. “Where this measures as far as it fits in, I don’t have an answer for you.” Dean said firefighters saw heavy dark smoke and flames coming from the unit when they arrived, “which is pretty hard to sustain life itself.” He said an investigation is already underway.

“Our heart goes out to all these people,” he said. “Our firefighters believe they can save everyone. They’re beating themselves up right now.” The investigation will also look at the building codes. One neighbor said there was a fire in the same unit two years ago, and we found an archive story on an apartment fire from March 14, 2008 that appears to be at the same complex.

Three people were taken to Harborview Medical Center for treatment, including the distraught mother, a man who arrived after the fire began and a child. They were not injured. Seattle Mayor McGinn arrived on the scene just before noon, thanking firefighters for their efforts before departing to to Harborview to talk to the family. Investigators have yet to recover the bodies.

Here’s a video of the story from the Seattle Times:

And you can read the Seattle Times’ story on the fire here.

Note: There are a couple efforts just getting underway to raise money for the families, and we’ll let you know as soon as there’s information to provide.

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m
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m

Dear GS –
“One resident is angry at the fire department for not moving fast enough” is a very damaging statement and not reporting of the facts. Please don’t let a statement like this infer any lack or wrongdoing on the part of firefighters. We don’t have facts around the fire department’s response.

This is a heartbreaking story and its natural that residents and family are frightened and angry. Please don’t discount firefighters efforts because of somebody’s lashing out. Wait for the facts.

ty

eric
Guest
eric

ugh terrible.

JM
Guest
JM

Very sad.

claes
Guest
claes

Here are some additional facts:

The first firetruck dropped a hose on south side of Fremont bridge right in front of us. It had to stop and put it aside, then went on towards the fire.

Ryan
Guest
Ryan

This is terrible. Do we have any idea as to what caused the fire?

Michael
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Michael

This fire is nowhere near the Fremont bridge.

Sad
Guest
Sad

Something just to ponder: It used to be the case that the city inspected fire hydrants very regularly. We all used to pay a few cents – cents – every two months to fund this. A few lawyers, a few years back, decided to challenge this in court in a class action. The court said that the city couldn’t charge ratepayers to maintain hydrants – that it had to come from the general fund. The upshot: The lawyers got rich, the ratepayers got back a few cents on each bill for the next year, and we all know what the state of the general fund is. People complain so much about having to pay for services… and this is what happens.

Tragic
Guest
Tragic

People don’t complain about services that maintain safety and infrastructure. They complain about funding everything else under the sun while needed infrastructure maintenance is left to rot.

If the above comments about the fire hydrants not being maintained are true then this city is grossly negligent.

yep
Guest
yep

it’s n0t the fire hydrant’s fault.

they ARRIVED twenty minutes after the call went out. sounds like some bungling…

what a tragedy

JM
Guest
JM

The Fire dept. 911 web page shows many units dispatched at 10:04 AM.

PrincessShilshole
Guest
PrincessShilshole

Oh dear God. How horrible. My thoughts and prayers are with the families, and the firefighters. Such a sad thing to have happen on such a beautiful day.

angelatini
Guest
angelatini

How about refraining from any criticism at this time? It’s not fair to anyone who lost their valuables or their loved ones. Keep it to yourself.

john
Guest
john

This was a “Full Response” with many units dispatched to a major fire. I’m sure units arrived within in minutes. One of the closest stations is on Bridgeway near Fremont. There should be no speculation here concerning what is a tragic event not seen in years. Condolences to all involved, & for the loss of life.

yep
Guest
yep

the story suggests there’s lots of speculation regarding the response.

innocent lives could’ve been saved. when do we start thinking about the response? it should be immediate while it’s fresh in everyone’s mind.

Shell
Guest
Shell

Heartbreaking. I saw the smoke on my drive to work at 10:15 and knew it could not be good. My heart goes out to the family’s who lost loved ones.

Mark
Guest
Mark

Tragic fire. I have been on many where the citizens complain about a 20 minute response time. And, it is always 4-6 minutes. In 30 years, I have never seen a response time even close to 20 minutes. Fire departments track response times to the second, this will bear out in this case also. And sometimes mechanical things do not function at the most inopportune times, despite everyones best efforts – that may have been what happened with the first arriving engine in regards to getting water on the fire. Seattle is an outstanding fire department. And I do not work for Seattle FD. Smoke detectors!

Tin See
Guest
Tin See

The cause of fire was extremely important.

PCar
Guest
PCar

Will someone please update this blog if there’s a collection of clothes or delivery of food?

angelatini
Guest
angelatini

If you truly have questions or comments I would suggest directing them to the fire department where they may actually do some good, not discussing it on a neighborhood forum.

ltfd
Guest
ltfd

Seattle Fire Department, Incident #51962- 334 NW 41 St. The incident was categorized as a ‘Fire in Building’, multi-residential structure.

RESPONSE: 5 Fire Engines, 2 Ladder Trucks, 2 Battalion Chiefs, 1 Medic Unit, 1 Aid Car, 1 Air (supply) Unit, 1 Safety Officer, 1 Deputy Chief and Staffing Assistant were initially dispatched to the fire.

TIME LINE:
10:04:03 – 911 call received
10:04:35 – Fire Department response was dispatched
10:09:05 – Engine 18 arrived first on scene
10:09:18 – Ladder 8 arrived
10:10:35 – Medic Unit 18 arrived
10:11:35 – Engine 20 arrived (second fire engine)

Val
Guest
Val

Looks like unit 3 was completely re-wired 2 years ago. Someone commenting at a news site also mentioned a fire at the same building 2 years ago. Any idea which unit had this fire or the last one?

Fred
Guest
Fred

I just heard of this tradgedy and all I could do was stop what I was doing and say a prayer for the those who were lost and their families, as well as the firefighters.

God, grant them all your comfort……….

clem
Guest
clem

say, angelatini, why don’t you save your lectures for your children. people can raise whatever questions and concerns they may have in comments sections…who the heck are you?

nf
Guest
nf

This is a terrible loss. Please, for the sake of the victims, remove the video from this post. While I’m sure the video is there to show the scene and be informational, it may bring quite a bit of pain to the victims of this incident.

Family members mourning the loss of loved ones should not also need to relive the scene by seeing and hearing the mother cry out in agony for her children.

My thoughts and prayers are with this family, their loved ones, the neighbors, and with the firefighters who risk their lives on a daily basis. Comfort to you all.

eric
Guest
eric

i agree, nf…not much to be gained watching a mother agonizing like that. ooh but it may help with “hits” or whatever.