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Originally published Friday, November 9, 2012 at 9:45 PM

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Safety risk at site of deadly Everett fire

A building in downtown Everett that was the site of a fire on Thursday night is so unstable that investigators are unable to go inside and recover the body of a missing apartment resident.

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A 118-year-old Everett building destroyed in a fire is so unstable that investigators were unable Friday to go inside and recover the body of a victim believed to be a resident.

Everett firefighters used a ladder truck to peer through the torn-up roof and saw human remains inside the McCrossen Building, said Everett Police Department spokesman Aaron Snell. City crews and the building's owner were working to stabilize the structure so workers with the Snohomish County Medical Examiner's Office could go inside to retrieve the body, Snell said.

"It is absolutely not safe for anyone to go inside," said city spokeswoman Kate Reardon.

Snell declined to release the age, gender or any other identifying information.

Earlier, Everett Fire Marshal Rick Robinson said a man who lives in the apartment where the fire is believed to have started was missing.

Flames broke out around 9:30 p.m. Thursday in the two-story brick building. The building is a mix of retail, a pizza parlor, a cabinet shop and a flea market on the ground level, and 13 apartments on the second level.

Ninety-seven firefighters from across Snohomish County were called in to battle the fire, Reardon said.

"They were fighting the fire inside for about a half-hour then they were called out. We did not want to compromise firefighter safety," Reardon said.

Because of the age of the structure, the building's owner was not required to have a sprinkler system. But, Reardon said, the city required all apartments to have functioning fire alarms. It's unclear whether the units had alarms, she added.

"I lost everything," said Kim Biden, a specialty-paint vendor at the Spare Room Vintage Market on the building's first floor, said Friday. "I've been coming out to look at it and crying all day."

Biden said she had just finished filling her shelves with inventory — the newest colors came in last week — only to see it all lost to the blaze.

She said the fire happened so fast, most residents escaped with only their clothes.

"One man got his dog, but not his shoes," Biden said.

The damage of the fire has caused the city to close several streets around nearby Comcast Arena, including Hewitt Avenue, from Broadway to Rockefeller Avenue, and Oakes Avenue, from Hewitt to Wall Street.

An adjacent building, home to an accounting and law firm, was closed on Friday due to questions about structural damage to the building where the fire broke out.

Reardon cautioned people attending "The Fresh Beat Band" children's concert at the Comcast Arena on Saturday night to prepare for traffic detours.

Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or jensullivan@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @SeattleSullivan.

Seattle Times staff reporter Jack Broom contributed to this report.

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