RENTON, Wash. - Firefighters are mopping up after a massive fire took over a full city block Tuesday night, destroying a multistory apartment complex building under construction in the Highlands neighborhood of Renton.
"It's devastating it was a lot of hard work and there's a lot of hard work to do ahead of us," said the building's developer, Joe Kaiser.
The four-alarm fire at the Harrington Square Apartments, a four-story complex, started shortly after 8 p.m. at Harrington Ave. NE and NE 9th St.
A few hours before the fire, contractors were hot torching, melting a tar material to bond it to the roof. Firefighters believe that was likely the cause of the fire.
The flames quickly consumed the complex and spread to nearby buildings. The walls of the apartment building had been framed, but there was no sheetrock to slow the flames' advance. The fire burned so hot, it jumped and destroyed an insurance office next door.
Ten to 15 nearby homes were briefly evacuated as a precaution; the complex itself was unoccupied.
Renton firefighters and firefighters from all over King County came to battle the fire.
Smoke from the fire was visible from both Interstate 90 and Interstate 5 in the Seattle area. Police evacuated nearby streets and hundreds of people crowded nearby playfields to watch and take photos.
"Sick to my stomach and very sad," said Shauma Ross, manager of the Harrington Square Apartments. Ross has an emotional connection to the loss. The apartment building, the second of two, was to be completed in January.
"Unbelievable, leaves me pretty speechless actually, It's very sad," said Ross. "It's a beautiful property and we will rebuild. Yeah, it's a setback."
By nightfall, Renton Fire Chief David Daniels said crews were focusing on "making sure the fire is out, and starting the investigative process." He said the complex had been roughly 50 percent completed. The building is a total loss.
No firefighters were hurt, but a Renton police officer helping to direct traffic was injured when he was hit by a driver.
The officer spent a couple of hours in the hospital and was released. The driver was arrested for investigation or reckless driving and DUI.
Firefighters said they had heard explosions.