'Collapse zone' set up at scene of Seattle building fire

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by KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on December 25, 2013 at 1:46 PM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 25 at 6:05 PM

Investigators don't know when they will be able to get into a building heavily damaged by fire on Tuesday.

“The structural integrity of the building is in question due to the fire and the amount of water that was put into the building," Sue Stangl with Seattle Fire said Wednesday.

"I'm pretty sure it's going to be quite some time before we can really determine all the details, what caused this fire," she said.

Roads remain closed in the "collapse zone" around the building, Stangl said.

The fire in three-story building in the 600 block of S King St. was reported just before 4 p.m. and wasn't under control until 10:30 p.m.

Stangl said when firefighters arrived there were already flames shooting from the roof of the building. They were able to get almost up to the third floor, but they were pulled out.

“If you can imagine three floors of an apartment-style building that has been untouched for upwards of 20-plus years, so even without a fire load, without heat, smoke or water, it’s a fairly dangerous area to send people in,” she said.

“It made it very challenging to do what we normally do, which is enter a building and fight inside the building and try to get water directly on the fire,” she said.

Firefighters took a defensive stance, so it look longer to put the fire out.

There were no injuries.

King County Metro provided a bus as a warming shelter for the 20 adults and 2 children who were initially evacuated from their homes.

The 104-year-old building houses businesses on the ground floor. The Red Cross said 46 people who had been evacuated from nearby apartments spent Tuesday night at a shelter nearby.

Building steeped in history

Timothy Woo's family has owned 665 S. King St. for longer than he - or they - can remember. At least 50 years.

Around the turn of the last century, it was a hotel.

"When Chinese immigrants came here, they stayed here, traveling from San Francisco up to Alaska,” said Woo.

It hasn't been a hotel in decades, but Woo says old beds and stoves, games and Chinese murals were left there when the hotel closed. Now, it's probably gone.

"It's a big loss, there's a lot of history in that building,” he said.

The building was the site of Washington state's deadliest mass killing -- the 1983 Wah Mee massacre.

In the early morning hours of Feb. 19, 1983, three men entered the illegal Wah Mee gambling club in the building's basement and hogtied, robbed and shot 14 patrons. Thirteen of them died. One survived and was able to identify the assailants.

Now, while the Woo family awaits news on their building, firefighters wait for the building to be secured.

"I don't want to lose the building.  That's all," said Woo.

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