Follow us:

The Today File

Your guide to the latest news from around the Northwest

December 26, 2013 at 6:29 PM

Cause of Chinatown ID building fire will likely never be known

The Chinatown International District building where 13 people were slain in Washington state’s deadliest massacre more than 30 years ago now holds another place in the annals of Seattle history: The cause of the massive Christmas Eve fire that heavily damaged the three-story structure was officially declared undetermined Thursday.

“The building is unsafe,” Seattle Fire Chief Gregory Dean announced at a late-afternoon news briefing where he explained that fire investigators were unable to reach  upper parts of the 104-year-old building to carry out the painstaking work of pulling apart evidence and examining burn patterns.

Eight businesses that operated at street-level around the three-story building at 665 S. King St. will be “not to be able to open anytime soon,” said Teri Woo, whose family has owned the site for more than 50 years.

Four businesses ­— a bakery, a fish store, a gospel center and a gift shop  — were red-tagged Thursday after the building as inspected by the Fire Department and the city’s  Department of Planning and Development.

Operators may only re-enter for about five minutes with a Fire Department escort to recover valued items.

Yellow tags were affixed to four other businesses on the less damaged east side of the building, allowing the operators to enter with an escort for  about an hour to recover belongings.

Timothy Woo, 27, Teri’s brother, said the family faces a “complicated” set of decisions  — ranging from repairs to demolition of the building — that will be guided by the advice of structural engineers they will be required to hire.

The building is the site of the Feb. 19, 1983, Wah Mee massacre, when three men entered the gambling club in the building’s basement and hogtied, robbed and shot 14 people. Thirteen of them died; one survived and was able to recognize two of three assailants.

Comments | More in The Blotter | Topics: fire, Seattle Fire Department


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►