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April 1, 2013 at 9:23 PM

Fire department: Lower Queen Anne house fire not an accident

Onlookers check out  the home destroyed by a fire that hit three homes altogether in Seattle's Lower Queen Anne neighborhood about 8 p.m. Monday. the two adjacent homes suffered less damage. The two-alarm fire started in a detached garage behind this home, according to Seattle Fire. (Photo by Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)

Onlookers check out the homes hit by a fire in Seattle’s Lower Queen Anne neighborhood about 8 p.m. Monday. The middle home was destroyed by the blaze while the two adjacent homes sustained less damage. The two-alarm fire started in a detached garage behind the home in the center, according to Seattle Fire. (Photo by Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)

UPDATE: 11:35 a.m. | The Seattle Fire Department says the fire that destroyed a Lower Queen Anne home and burned two adjacent homes was set and not accidental.

Fire officials say the fire started in a doorless garage, which was filled with combustibles including trash and an old Christmas tree. The fire is being investigated by the Seattle Police Department’s Arson and Bomb Squad. It’s unclear if the fire was set as “a crime of opportunity” or if the residences were targeted, said fire spokesman Kyle Moore.

The home that was destroyed was a “charred shell,” and the two homes on either side  “suffered significant damage” in the fire that erupted about 8 p.m. Monday. The initial damage estimate is $560,000 for the three structures, along with $55,000 damage to the contents.

It took 78 firefighters and 16 fire trucks to fight the blaze, which was extinguished by about 10 p.m., said Seattle Fire Department spokesman Kyle Moore. At least 10 people and a dog were displaced by the fire. The Red Cross was working to find them a place to stay, Moore said.

The homes are in the 700 block of Warren Avenue North, just about a block north of the Seattle Center.

The fire is under investigation, and it appears to have started in a garage at the back of the middle house, said Moore.

Two people suffered minor injuries: A man hurt his ankle running out of his burning home. The other injury, said Moore, happened after a guy, who had been at a nearby bar, decided “to run up the street to fight the fire.” He injured his hands, although not enough to require medical attention.

Residents, family members and others gather to salvage possessions from  the home that was destroyed by the fire. The home at left and a third home not pictured were also burned  last night in Lower Queen Anne in Seattle. Flames were said to have shot some 40 feet high during the height of the blaze. (Photo by Helen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)

Residents, family members and others gather to salvage possessions from the home that was destroyed by the fire. The home at left and the home on the right were also burned. (Photo by Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)

Tim Shields rented the lower unit in the duplex.

“I was hanging out with two friends, and one of them says, ‘Is that like a fire or something?’ We saw an orange glow through the shades. The garage was completely engulfed,” he said.

Shields, a copywriter for a marketing company who now is staying with friends, said he doesn’t know what of his possessions he’ll find when he returns to his former home.

An avid diary-keeper who had chronicled his life and world travels since age 17 in 1991, he had filled over 45 diaries.

All he managed to get out with were his wallet, cell phone, computer and two guitars.

Shields said he hadn’t played guitar for a while.

“I guess I’ll start playing guitar again,” he said.

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