SeaTac fire leaves scores homeless

SEATAC, Wash. — Scores of people are homeless after a fire raced through a SeaTac apartment building, destroying several units and vehicles.

The fire broke out at the Hanover Apartments on S. 192nd Street in SeaTac at about 11:30 p.m. Saturday.

Several people had to be rescued, including four people who were badly hurt.

As of 6:30 p.m. Sunday, two females were in satisfactory condition and one man is in critical condition.

It is a sight many residents of the Hanover Apartments said they had never seen, and it sent them, by the dozens, fleeing into the night.

“I mean, the fire was already right there,” said Anton Phillips.

“It was right there,” agreed his partner, Anne Lett.

“And it didn’t take long,” said Phillips. “It didn’t take long. An old building like this. It went up pretty fast. It went up really fast.”

So fast that Phillips and Lett had just enough time to get out with their lives.

“No sprinklers,” said Lett. “We didn’t even hear any alarms. No smoke alarms. No fire alarms. No nothing.”

“Nothing,” agreed Phillips. “Just fire, just fire.”

It was pure “chaos,” said Lett.

“All of a sudden, it was just fire,” said Phillips, making a whoosh sound. “That’s all you heard.”

The chaos could be heard as flames consumed the apartment and the cars in the parking lot.

“Your life is more important than that car,” someone could be heard saying while owners watched helplessly as their vehicles were burned to their tires.

Firefighters quickly pulled three alarms. Several people had to be rescued, including a toddler.

Four people were taken to area hospitals. Fighting the fire itself proved a challenge.

“Just making sure we can get apparatus in here,” said Division Chief Pat Pawlawk with Puget Sound Regional Fire Authority. “There are people that we’ve got on the sidewalk. But just really, the fire’s in the center of the building. So it traveled both directions.”

“Nothing, wallet,” said Mesfin Yeshewawerk. “Yeah, no phone, everything.”

Yeshewawerk said he, his wife and toddler left everything inside their apartment to flee to safety, including the keys he needed to move his car.

So he could do nothing to save the brand-new taxi he had just bought.

It is how, he said, he planned to support his family. “Yeah,” he said as he looked over at his vehicle that looked like it was torched.

According to the authorities, the building was up to code. Sprinklers were not required when it was built.

That is cold comfort for those who have no home and no belongings.

The Red Cross is helping anyone who needs it. The organization said 43 of the 48 units affected were inhabited, with 85 people displaced.

The King County sheriff’s public information officer said investigators later declared the fire as arson. The suspect, a resident of the Hanover Apartments, was booked into the King County Jail.