120 firefighters battle Sodo blaze; 1 firefighter injured
Fire investigators hoped to get inside the former Sunny Jim peanut-butter plant on Tuesday morning to begin determining the cause of the fire Monday that destroyed the vacant warehouse.
Seattle Times staff reporters
Fire investigators hoped to get inside the former Sunny Jim peanut-butter plant Tuesday morning to begin determining the cause of the fire Monday that destroyed the vacant warehouse.
Up to 120 firefighters battled the fire first reported at 1:47 p.m. Monday in the city-owned, two-story building at South Industrial Way and Airport Way South.
One firefighter was injured by a piece of siding when he attempted to open a door to get a hose into the building, according to fire officials. He was taken to Harborview Medical Center with an ankle fracture and was listed in stable condition Monday.
Some neighboring buildings were evacuated as firefighters spent several hours battling the flames. The response of firefighting equipment and the smoke snarled surface streets and Interstate 5 to the east.
Because the building was vacant, firefighters fought the blaze "defensively," said Seattle Fire Chief Gregory Dean. He said there was no attempt to enter the building. Instead, the Fire Department tried to contain the blaze to the north end of the building while allowing the roof to burn through.
Once the roof was destroyed, firefighters were able to attack the heart of the fire, Dean said.
Fire Department spokeswoman Helen Fitzpatrick said the cause would remain unknown until investigators could get inside the building. Dean said he expected firefighters would work through the night to keep water on the smoldering building.
Andy Kim, who works at AVL Professional audio/video to the north of the building, said he and co-workers saw smoke, then smelled it. He and a co-worker walked outside to see smoke and flames pouring from the center of the building.
He said the building attracts transients and homeless people.
"There are usually a lot of transients hanging around out there. Every morning, an RV [mobile methadone unit/clinic] pulls up and they do a needle exchange, so every day there's a line of people."
La Dele Sines, chairwoman of the Friends of Georgetown, said the building started as an independent beer brewery in the late 1800s. It was owned by a couple of men, including one who died in the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. Continental Can, which made cans for the fishing industry, then owned the building, she said.
Germanus Wilhelm Firnstahl founded Pacific Standard Foods, maker of the Sunny Jim brand, in 1921 after he moved to Seattle from Wisconsin and bought a peanut roaster. He bought the Airport Way South plant during the Depression.
The company became the supplier of a third of all peanut butter in the Seattle area during the 1950s, before it eventually was sold in 1979 to the Bristol Bay Native Corp.
The city of Seattle purchased the building in 1991 and still owns the structure, according to property records.
Katherine Schubert-Knapp, city spokeswoman, said the city recently put out a bid for electrical-service upgrades in another building on the property. The upgrades did not include the building that caught fire, although some work would have to be done to power lines underneath the structure, she said.
A fire on the same property in February 1997 destroyed the familiar "Sunny Jim" sign that once crowned one of the buildings at the plant.
The fire was under control Monday night, but firefighters expected to be monitoring the building overnight to watch for hot spots, according to the Seattle Fire Department.
Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report, which includes information from Times archives and The Associated Press.
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.
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