Fire guts restaurants and coffee shop in Seattle's Greenwood neighborhood
An early-morning fire today gutted three restaurants and a coffee shop in the heart of Greenwood's business district in Seattle, but firefighters battled back the flames to keep them from spreading to two adjacent buildings.
Seattle Times staff reporters
An early-morning fire today gutted three restaurants and a coffee shop in the heart of Greenwood's business district in North Seattle, but firefighters battled back the flames to keep them from spreading to two adjacent buildings.
The first 911 call came in just before 4 a.m. with a witness reporting smoke in the area, said Seattle Fire Department spokeswoman Dana Vander Houwen.
By the time the first units arrived at the fire on North 85th Street, just west of Greenwood Avenue North, flames were shooting from the building and smoke was billowing from the roof.
"We sent firefighters in initially, but the incident commander read the fire and pulled people out of there," Vander Houwen said.
Then the roof collapsed.
Firefighters then worked to protect the nearby Taproot Theatre and a business complex with second-floor apartments. Both adjacent buildings suffered water and smoke damage and apartment residents were evacuated, Vander Houwen said.
The fire was under control by 6:30 a.m. Firefighters were to remain on the scene to douse hot spots throughout the day Friday, Vander Houwen said. Fire investigators are working to determine the cause of the fire and come up with a damage estimate but "due to the instability of the structure, the investigation is expected to take several days," she said.
One firefighter suffered a minor ankle injury, but otherwise no one was hurt.
"I'm glad we're safe, glad that everybody got out safe, but I feel for the people who lost their livelihoods," said Fernando Aramburu, 59, who with his wife, Ileana, was evacuated after firefighters pounded on their apartment door around 4:30 a.m.
By the time the couple got down to the parking lot behind their building, flames were shooting above the tree line.
"They were just licking up," Aramburu said. "For a while there, it looked like they (the firefighters) weren't going to win."
Until they finally did, Aramburu thought for sure his building would burn, too.
"It was amazing how they got it under control and worked from the sides to the middle to protect those two buildings. My hat's off to those guys," he said.
Fire investigators were waiting for things to cool down before they begin sifting through the debris to figure out what caused the fire, Vander Houwen said.
The Green Bean Coffee Shop was among the businesses destroyed.
As fire trucks rumbled away, those left without homes and businesses, stood in the rain in a nearby parking lot, observing the damage, unsure of what to do next.
Among them was the Taproot Theatre's CEO Scott Nolte, who said he was unsure how damaged the theater was because he had not been able to get in yet.
He also says the theater operators are looking for temporary theater space for the remaining three performances of Enchanted April, which was set to close Saturday. The performances were sold out.
He said he knew something was wrong at 5 a.m. when he was notified at home that the theater's burglar alarm had gone off. He and the production manager went to the scene.
"I saw firemen with axes go into the theater and water cascading out," he said.
He believes the theater will remain intact, but there's considerable damage to the public areas.
"We were hoping we would get by with just smoke damage," he said.
Another play was scheduled to start at the end of November. He said the theater will be updating its Web site www.taproottheatre.org to let ticket holders know what to do with their tickets.
Up and down the streets in the area, a number businesses on the block where the fire occurred had shattered glass doors where firefighters went in to check on or rescue apartment tenants, and in one case, 11 cats at PAWS' Cat City.
All the cats were moved to a PAWS shelter in Lynnwood, said Mary Leake Schilder, who works at the shelter. "They (firefighters) were kind enough to make sure the cats were OK," she said.
The owner of Romio's Pizza, Amir Razzaghi, frantically paced through the parking lot outside his restaurant. But once he went inside he was relieved, although there was three-feet of water in a nearby storage room, the restaurant itself is fine and he was able to open for business.
Given the destruction in the neighborhood, Razzaghi said he feels lucky.
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