Snohomish County family sues power company, seeking answers after deadly fire

VIDEO: Snohomish County family sues power company, seeking answers after deadly fire

SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. — A Snohomish County family wants answers after their loved one was killed in a fast-moving house fire.

It happened in January 2017 just outside the town of Snohomish.

The victim was Glen Allen, a 93-year-old World War II veteran who'd been married to his wife for nearly 70 years. Even at his age, he worked every day on his farm and spent decades as the yard manager of the Marysville Livestock Auction.

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The house caught fire just after 4 a.m. Glen Allen and his wife, Helen knew they had to get out. Helen told KIRO-7 her husband went to get the car out of the garage so they could sit in it to stay warm on that cold morning.   Helen escaped out the front door, Glen collapsed inside.

Allen's grandson, Ben MacDicken, remembers what his grandmother told him when he arrived.  "She said that grandpa is still inside and he needs to get out."

Deputies couldn't get to him in the black smoke, firefighters pulled him out.  Medics were unable to revive Allen.

"They had trouble getting in and it was too late," said MacDicken.  He worked the farm with his grandfather for years, caring for cattle on the 35-acre farm.

His family says they'd had trouble with the power line coming into the house before but believed it had been fixed.

Now they are suing Snohomish County PUD to get answers.

"What I really want is that it doesn't happen to anybody else," said Janelle MacDicken, Glen Allen's daughter.

Fire investigators found the fire started near the floor between the wall and television cabinet. The only source of ignition was a power tap, or strip plugged into the wall.

Investigators examined a section of the power line that ran from the pole to the house.

A section Helen Allen says Snohomish County PUD had replaced before. She says she noticed the pole was leaning and pulling the power line connected to her house.

"Rather than replacing the entire wire, they just spliced a portion of it as a cost-saving measure. We have some concerns that might have been the source of the surge that went to the house and ultimately caused the fire," said family attorney Kevin Hastings.

In public records requested by KIRO 7, Snohomish PUD even lists this description of the fire as  "Power surge in home caused a fire that resulted in the death of Mr.Glen  Allen."

It wouldn't be the first power surge to the house.
In 2007, a surge damaged the family's TV according to the fire marshal's investigation, Snohomish County PUD replaced the TV.

"We have a right to be safe in our house and depend on the utility companies - to make sure that the wires are safe," said Hastings who is representing the family in the lawsuit.

The house has been rebuilt since the 2017 fire, and the new power line runs underground.

Helen Allen visits her old house, but can't bring herself to live there without Glen.

"To come down and be by myself here, I don't know. It doesn't feel right," said Helen Allen. "It's like about a year that you still dream, it's hard to get over."

Now Ben MacDicken lives in the house with his wife and young children. He's caring for the cattle just as his grandfather did.

"We just don't want this to happen to anybody else. He was 93 years old. If he was 93 or 6, I don't care. This is something I wouldn't wish upon anybody," said Ben MacDicken.

KIRO-7 reached out to Snohomish County PUD about the lawsuit.  Snohomish County PUD sent a statement:

"Our sympathies go out to the Allen family.  While we do not typically comment on pending litigation, we take the allegations against us very seriously and look forward to the opportunity to present our defenses at trial."

See our archived footage from the scene below:

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