Investigators: 5 fires in vacant buildings in Ballard in last 2 months

After noticing several fires in abandoned buildings over the last few weeks, we contacted Seattle Fire investigators for a tally — and to learn what started them.

There have been five fires across three locations in the Ballard area in November and December, according to investigators. All of the blazes were started by trespassers who lit warming or debris fires. And in each case, the properties had failed city inspections.

8017-8023 15th Ave NW

The largest fire occurred on the night of December 3rd (photo above by Mac Jahn), burning an abandoned structure at 8019 15th Ave NW — the largest of three abandoned homes in the same block. Fire crews had to cut through a perimeter fence to access the blaze, and one firefighter sustained minor injuries.

The cause was a “warming fire ignited nearby combustibles,” Seattle Fire told My Ballard.

Six days later, a smaller fire occurred in a vacant house next door, at 8023 15th Ave. NW (next to the Pancake House.) The cause was the same, but the building was not damaged. City records show the third vacant house at 8017 15th Ave. NW — next door to the first fire and part of the same batch of abandoned homes — failed a city inspection in February of 2017, but was subsequently brought up to compliance.

These buildings have since been torn down (above) to make room for a single development by Sage Homes comprised of nine townhouses.

8509 14th Ave. NW

Rewind to the beginning of November, and Seattle Fire responded to fire at an abandoned home at 8509 14th Ave. NW. Then again on Dec. 20th, firefighters responded to the same home for a report of smoke. In both cases, investigators say someone had set a fire in the fireplace — the first time, it set a tree on fire, right next door to a new condo building.

“Luckily one of our residents was able to call 911 before the fire did a lot of damage to either property,” said one of the condo residents, Jed, in comments in our earlier story on the fire. He said a man and woman had fled after the fire started.

The vacant home failed a city inspection on November 17th, according to city records. There’s no record of the property being brought back into compliance. When we visited over the weekend (above), the home was boarded up.

Last week Jed said workers had re-boarded up the house and hauled away “6 or 7 trips of trash and debris from the house.” He said the developers told him they were planning to demolish the home this month. Records show the owner is 308 VIEW LLC, and the plan is to build two apartment buildings with a total of 24 units.

1443 NW 63rd St.

The final fire in the list occurred at a vacant home at 1443 NW 63rd St. on November 26th, right next to Alki’s Body Shop.

This fire was extinguished quickly, and investigators told us the cause is “small debris fires set.” A search of city records shows the property has received at least four complaints and one citation.

“As of 12/21/17 the site has been cleaned up,” explains a note in the records. “Case to remain open until [demolition] and [building] permits are issued to ensure site is maintained.” As we saw when we visited (above), a fence had been installed around the property.

The owner, Greenbuild Development, plans to build an apartment complex with 30 units.

In each of these cases, the city’s enforcement work has prompted developers to respond, some sooner than others. If you see a vacant building that may not be following city ordinance, you can call city inspectors at (206) 615-0808. You can also fill out a form online here.

If you see any trespassers or suspicious activity, you can call 911 or the Seattle Police non-emergency line at 206-625-5011.

We’ll keep an eye on subsequent fires in the neighborhood. As always, if you have a news tips, please email us at tips@myballard.com — it’s a big help.

18 comments on “Investigators: 5 fires in vacant buildings in Ballard in last 2 months”

  1. As part of the homelessness budget, doesn’t the city have to furnish the charcoal?

  2. Aren’t these fires really the result of illegal trespassing on private property? The author(s) are making it about warming fires. Let’s not forget this all starts with illegal conduct by people who may well be on drugs, are mentally ill, or are just cold. Let’s be clear, here. It is still not legal to destroy the property of others whether it passed or did not pass city inspection, and the authors don’t even report the nature of the inspection. Please report the facts. Maybe you will even rewrite the article so it makes sense.

  3. @UFf Da– did you read the article? It’s literally the third sentence that mentions ‘trespassers’.

    That house on 14th Ave NW could’ve just as easily been started by a disgruntled architecture critic who didn’t think the southwesty stucco and tile roof fit into the neighborhood.

  4. Thank you Geeky Swedes, that was kind of a back-handed admission that you failed to use the word trespassers, and then only used it once in your subsequent edit.

    Erin, the first version this article I read in my email did not have the language in the current version which you reference. It read as follows: “There have been five fires across three locations in the Ballard area in November and December, according to investigators. All of the blazes were started by warming or debris fires. And in each case, the properties had failed city inspections.”

    I still seek clarity on how failing inspections is relevant to the trespassing. Please clarify.

  5. I’m the Jed quoted in the story for the 8509 property and the man who left the scene after the incident in November actually returned to the scene about 30 minutes after the fire department showed up. The fire chief on the scene spoke with him and explained how what he did started the fire. Despite admitting to setting the fire, Seattle Police explained they couldn’t act upon or arrest him for trespassing. They said, “our hands are tied. If this happened in Shoreline, we’d be arresting him tonight.” Apparently, police need prior written permission from the owner to act upon any trespassing with these properties, giving police the authority to arrest and prosecute. Baffles me when he was caught red handed! Not sure if the owner has taken the steps needed for this.

    Lastly, I want to point out that the city did a really great job cleaning up the property. Kudos to them.

  6. Apparently, the Junta Loca running our fair city has found, in their infinite wisdom, a way to thwart the rule of law at every turn. Pete Holmes and Mike O’Brien, knowing that 99% of people squatting in these homes are their beloved vagrants, have tied the hands of the police when it comes to prosecuting them. Break in, roast a weenie and set the trees on fire, people! It’s all fine and dandy!

  7. Geeky Swedes – Nice summary. Thank you. Question: Does anyone have a handle on how many vacant buildings that have failed city inspections or have outstanding citations are in Ballard and their locations? I would think that the existence of citations or failed inspections in vacant buildings indicates a building that is neglected and vulnerable to trespass and fires. At this point we are lucky that the damage has been relatively minor with no significant injuries/deaths.

  8. So the owners of the properties are failing to press charges and immediately after the fires conveniently bypass the City’s demolition process, move right into developing townhomes and apartment complexes on the previously single family homes? Something stinks, and it’s not the homeless.

    But hey, it provides a good article for the Ballard deplorables to crap all over the homeless!

  9. You can call me whatever makes you feel better but I’m not breaking into property that does not belong to me, setting fire to it and surrounding trees and imperiling the residences of others around me. I’m all out of patience with the city for not providing adequate shelter or rule of law and with the lawless vagrants who trash whatever the heck they want to, sans consequences.

  10. And at the risk of awakening you from your intellectual slumber, your sweeping reference to “the homeless” being the target of comments here is off-base. The comments here, at least mine, are directed at trespassing troublemakers, not people who have been priced out of their homes or those for whom no adequate shelter options have been provided.

  11. @Pork: I don’t recall accusing you of anything. But don’t let that stop your self-righteous ranting!

  12. These are traditional Yuletide fires started by Olde Ballard residents who celebrate the Scandi Solstice by slamming meth after bashing an old lady for her purse by the library. #nohate #noborders #nonimbys

  13. The City of Seattle policies that prevent SPD from arresting squatters (property trespassers), that don’t allow demolition of derelict properties (until there is a permit for a new building on the site), and that target property owners for the responsibility of trespassers repeatedly breaking & entering (despite property owners repeatedly spending $ to re-secure the property) are indicators of a failed system of law & order.

    EVERY vacant/derelict home that I have entered in Seattle has discarded drug paraphernalia in it- primarily used syringes. Don’t forget the human waste as well. I wish that our City “Leaders” would fix this ongoing issue, but they won’t/don’t.

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