Occupants of burned apartments say building had known heater problems



BURIEN, Wash. - Occupants of a Burien apartment building that caught fire because of a faulty thermostat said they had reported problems with their heaters numerous times.


The fire at the Tra-Lee apartments in the 1200 block of Southwest 124th Street broke out Monday evening and destroyed as many as eight units, fire investigators said.


A woman who lived in the second-floor apartment where the fire began told KIRO 7 Eyewitness News reporter Alexandra Limon that she reported problems with her heater at least five times.


That woman, Mariella Madrid, said it had felt like it was 100 degrees in her apartment all week while the temperatures outside were in the 40s.


“This was a carelessness of the building. In the apartment where we lived, the heater would not turn down.  We reported that many times and it was never was taken care of,” said Madrid.


Other people who were forced to spend the night at a Red Cross shelter told Limon the same thing.


A man who said he was a representative for the building’s owners, Mueler Yilma, said the claims were untrue.


“Nobody reported anything, but when the owners come here it’s best to contact (them), because they’re the ones managing it,” said Yilma.


Burien Fire Department Fire Marshall Bill Harm confirmed that a faulty thermostat was to blame.


“One single thermostat had been running in the high heat position for approximately a week, and we believe that’s what contributed to the fire," Harm said.


Several families lost everything they had in the fire and 96 people were left temporarily homeless, but some may be able to return.


The Fire Department said the owner of the building is out of the country and that could be the reason why broken heaters were not fixed.


Fire officials added that the owners had recently replaced the building’s smoke detectors.