Totem House closes after 62 years in Ballard

Since 1948 people have been eating fish and chips at the Totem House. The restaurant, which sits just across the street from the Ballard Locks, is a yet another neighborhood victim of the economy.

Everything inside is being removed and hauled away. Chairs, the kitchen stove and even the teepee is being dismantled. The owner declined to talk with us, but the sign on the door says it all: “Goodbye friends,” the first line reads, “The economy has overtaken us. We will miss you greatly.”

Nora Charles first posted this in the forum and Cate responded, “I remember my family getting their fish and chips and sitting on the hillside above the locks eating it – must of been forty-five years ago. Hard to see something left from childhood disappear.”

Mechelle Bush has been coming to the Totem House for years. She stopped by Friday afternoon after seeing the sign on the door, not really believing that the Ballard institution has closed. “In the summer, in the winter, I’d stop by and get chowder on the way home from work. Yeah, I’m gonna miss it,” she tells us. “I feel bad for them. A lot of good memories. It’s just tragic.”

Firefighters rescue family from Ballard blaze

Updated 4:10 p.m. Firefighters rescued eight people from a two-alarm house fire on the corner of NW 65th St. and 9th Ave. NW early this morning. When rescue crews arrived, they discovered the house engulfed in flames and people trapped on the roof, both in front and back of the home.

“I was so scared, I thought I was going to die,” 16-year-old Ashley Luberts told a Seattle Times reporter about standing on the roof, surrounded by smoke and flames. Her 74-year-old grandmother, Maria Luberts, was also perched on the roof, waiting for rescue with the rest of the family.

“When we woke up, all we could hear is the screaming,” said Jim, a neighbor, who said he was hit with a wall of smoke when he raced outside. “The grandmother was stuck on the roof, so we tried to get her down.”

Lt. Sue Stangl with Seattle Fire tells us firefighters rescued six people off the roof near the back of the house and the elderly woman from the front. “She was on the edge of the roof, and police officers and firefighters helped her down, and basically she jumped into their arms,” said Stangl. “They did a fantastic job.”

All eight were taken to the hospital. The grandmother suffered from smoke inhalation, but she’s expected to fully recover, family members say. A 12-year-old girl, Ashley’s sister, suffered burns to her arms and hands. The others escaped with just minor injuries.

“It was pretty scary,” Jim told us. “I’m just glad they all got out.”

Lt. Tom Erickson from Engine 21 in Greenwood arrived just after Ballard’s Engine 18. He was part of the rescue team that entered the blazing home to make sure nobody was inside. “There was a lot of fire in there,” he said. “We stayed in there as long as we could, until they told us to get out.”

Battalion Chief Alan Cox says the first crews to respond may receive an award for the rescue. When we talked to firefighters about it, they dismissed the possibility and said they were just doing their jobs.

The fire was dispatched at 4:10 a.m. and quickly escalated to a two-alarm blaze. The two-story house appears to be a total loss. Still at this hour, the gutted structure is smoking, with firefighters occasionally dousing hot spots.

With 23 degree temperatures, the first hydrant broke as firefighters attempted to connect a hose. Water from fighting the fire turned into a sheet of ice over 65th and 9th. City crews spread salt over the ice to prevent firefighters from slipping.

With the fire under control, cold firefighters took refuge in a metro bus called to the scene to help warm them up. Some of their helmets were caked with ice.

After being closed much of the day, NW 65th Street reopened this afternoon.

A news helicopter hovered over the neighborhood for much of the early morning. From the moment the fire was dispatched, Silver posted updates in the forum here. (Thanks Silver for your help!)

Plus: Watch video of the fire from KING 5

Spectacular winter view from Fremont park

It’s one of those unusually clear winter days, so we snapped some photos from Fremont Peak Park, one of our favorite vistas in North Seattle.

This shot of Salmon Bay in Ballard framed against the Olympic Mountains almost looks like a Scandinavian port.

And a closer mountain view, with a bit of Sunset Hill in the foreground. Hope everyone is enjoying the holidays (even if you’re working), and Happy New Year!

Bicyclist injured in accident on 3rd Ave.

A man on a bicycle and a car collided near West Woodland Elementary School just before 5 p.m. The accident at 3rd Ave. and 54th St. briefly trapped the bicyclist’s legs under the vehicle, Seattle Fire tells us. But other than abrasions, the man in his 40s sustained “no significant injuries.” He was transported to Harborview Medical Center. The driver of the vehicle was not injured.

No word on the cause of the accident, which was cleared at 5:45 p.m. Silver has been posting updates in the forum here.

2nd annual Polar Bear Plunge Saturday

Get ready for the second annual Polar Bear Plunge at Golden Gardens.

Video from the 2010 Polar Bear Plunge.
The 2011 plunge is at 10 a.m. on New Year’s Day with awards being handed out for costumes. “Take the plunge, it’s not cold, it’s invigorating!” Rick Sandvig writes in the events calendar submission. Afterward, head to the Lock & Keel (5144 Ballard Ave NW) for a hot toddy to warm up. According to the National Weather Service highs on Saturday will be in the upper 30s. Of course we’ll be there, on the beach, with our camera.

Two men accused of ATM skimming in Ballard

Federal Prosecutors have charged two men with skimming a BECU ATM in Ballard. According to, Ion Armeanca, 44, and Dan Petri, 34, doctored the machine to steal account information and personal identification numbers (PIN) on November 30th. A Secret Service agent speaking at court is documented as saying the skimmer was set up on the 900 block of NW 45th St, is reporting. The agent told the court that the skimmer was set up for two hours and 14 accounts were compromised at a cost of $14,000.

The agent described the skimming scheme to the court, reports, explaining that a fake faceplate is placed over the card reader of the ATM with a device that can store information on the card’s magnetic strip. The suspects placed cameras above the keypad to capture the customers’ PINs. (Thanks Kurt and Tomas for the tip!)

Metro buses on reduced service

Metro buses are running on a reduced schedule this week. “The reduced weekday schedule features more bus service than on weekends, but somewhat less service than on normal weekdays,” the website states. During this week, some school-oriented routes have been canceled and other routes have individual trips canceled. You can see a list of affected bus routes here.

On Saturday, January 1, Metro will run on a Sunday schedule. Metro will be back to normal on Monday, January 3rd.

Free tree-cycling until January 9th

The city is offering free curbside “tree-cycling” until January 9th for customers who subscribe to curbside food and yard waste collection.

Trees and greens need to be cut into sections of no more than six feet with branches trimmed to less than four feet to fit into the collection trucks. Sections of trees should be bundled together with string or twine. Apartment and condo residents can put one tree next to each yard waste bin with no extra charge.

Flocked trees or trees with tinsel on them will be collected as extra garbage. These trees must be cut into three-foot pieces and each piece will be charged as extra garbage. (Just a reminder that starting on January 1, each extra unit of garbage will cost $8.10.)

Residents who don’t subscribe to food and yard waste collection can drop trees and greens at the North Recycling and Disposal station (North 34th Street and Carr Place N) from December 26th through January 9th. Tree sections must be cut into sections eight feet or less with trunks four inches or smaller in diameter. One vehicle can drop off three trees.

A photo tour of Ballard Christmas lights

We packed up the kids and drove around Ballard and Crown Hill — with the help of a few of you on Twitter –to snap photos of some of the best Christmas light displays in the neighborhood.

One of our favorite discoveries is this home on 8th Ave. and Alderbrook in Crown Hill, suggested to us by @bentsauce. Pretty!

Not too far away, this home on 8th Ave. and 90th is peppered with lights, even covering the roof. It reminds us of that scene from Christmas Vacation.

Just like every year, neighbors at Olympic Manor pull out all the stops. (Enter at 85th St. and 23rd Ave.) This photo doesn’t really do it justice, but nearly every home is covered in lights, drawing a steady stream of onlookers. Thanks @wineandswine for the reminder!

This house on 80th St. and 18th Ave. always draws a lot of attention with its intricate display. Here’s a close-up which includes a full nativity scene.

Another home with attention to detail is 51st near 6th Ave., which features a fishing boat and big train that covers a fence (with rotating lights on the wheels.) Always a treat.

Finally, here’s the Gingerbread House on 9th and 73rd, complete with candy canes, gingerbread people and candies dangling from the eaves.

God Jul!