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December 25, 2013 at 1:16 PM

Chinatown fire cause still unknown; authorities monitor for possible collapse

Seattle Fire Department spokeswoman Lt. Sue Stangl answers questions during a Christmas day press conference. Directly behind her is the fire scene.

Seattle Fire Department spokeswoman Lt. Sue Stangl answers questions during a Christmas day press conference. Directly behind her is the fire scene.

Concerned that the old structure may collapse, Seattle firefighters are still unable to enter the building in the Chinatown International District that burned Tuesday night,  a Seattle Fire Department spokeswoman said today.

Engineers and building inspectors will come to the site Thursday to determine whether cranes and other heavy equipment may be needed to support or bring down the facade before firefighters can investigate further, Lt. Sue Stangl said at a news conference this morning. The cause of the fire at 665 S. King Street is still unknown. No one was hurt.

Authorities said they will continue to monitor the structure around the clock.  ”We do not want to have any catastrophic collapse,” Stangl said.

The building, site of the 1983 Wah Mee massacre,  is on one of the busiest stretches in the Chinatown International District. The American Red Cross said 46 people nearby were evacuated and took shelter overnight at a community center. The seven businesses on the bottom floor of the damaged building, from Mon Hei Bakery to Sea Garden restaurant, may be closed for a lengthy period, fire officials said.

Christmas Day is traditionally a busy day in the neighborhood, as families head out for dim sum and other fare, and businesses nearby were operating normally.

Firefighters were dispatched shortly before 4 p.m Tuesday on reports of flames shooting from the roof of the three-story building. Firefighters almost made it to the third floor before assessing that the 104-year old structure was unsafe — wobbly railings and holes –in the floor – to climb to the top.  Firefighters retreated and fought the fire from the streets and used thermal-imaging cameras to gauge the fire.

Photos from the scene show firefighters battling the blaze from outside the building.

0 Comments | Topics: 665 S. King St., Chinatown-International District, fire

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