Bothell’s multimillion-dollar downtown redevelopment was dealt a serious blow Friday when fire swept through two buildings, destroying many businesses.

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Bothell’s multimillion-dollar downtown redevelopment was dealt a serious blow Friday when fire swept through two buildings, significantly damaging about 20 businesses and closing several more.

No injuries were reported, but damage is expected to run into the millions.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), police and fire officials will investigate to determine the fire’s cause over the next seven to 10 days, according to a city news release.

About 20 businesses sustained significant damage and remained closed through Friday, the 5 p.m. news release says. By that time, several others had reopened and firefighters were still monitoring for hot spots.

The damaged and destroyed buildings remained too hot Friday afternoon to allow investigators inside to search for a cause, Bothell Fire Chief Bob Van Horne said during an earlier news conference.

There, he offered a more grim outlook on the investigation into the fire’s cause, saying that it might never be known as a result of the damage and because the blaze started in a building under construction.

The fire was reported at 2:47 a.m. in the historic Mercantile Building, 18104 102nd Ave. N.E., which was being renovated into six stories of housing.

The building was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived, and the flames could be seen for miles, said fire department spokeswoman Kirsten Clemens. Witnesses reported the flames jumped hundreds of feet into the air.

The fire quickly spread to the Bothell Mall, which houses four to six small businesses, including the popular Kozy Corner Cafe, Van Horne said.

Van Horne said damage to the mall was so extensive the building may have to be demolished.

“My heart is just heavy,” Mayor Andy Rheaume said.

A Wells Fargo Bank branch was also damaged, although the extent was not immediately known, Clemens said. Much of the damage was centered on Main Street and 102nd Avenue Northeast.

A crane at The Mercantile melted, its boom drooping to the ground.

Van Horne said two people were evacuated.


The fire disrupted power in the area, delaying the start of classes at nearby Cascadia College until 10 a.m.

Long after the fire was declared under control, firefighters battled flare-ups, including a large one that erupted in the Bothell Mall.

The state Department of Ecology also responded because firefighting foam used to choke oxygen from the fire had flowed into the Sammamish River. Ecology will determine whether the foam posed a threat to wildlife.

Scores of firefighters from multiple departments, including Bellevue, Eastside Fire and Rescue, Woodinville, Lynnwood and Shoreline, helped to fight the fire.

The fire struck at the east end of the city’s historic Main Street, about halfway between downtown and the UW Bothell campus.

A multimillion-dollar revitalization effort has been under way in downtown Bothell for the past decade.

The former farm town, now a commuter suburb, relocated dozens of businesses, moved a state highway, and bought up 26 acres of downtown to transform the landscape of strip malls and auto-oriented businesses into a denser, urban center, in partnership with private developers.

The downtown transformation has included a new $47 million City Hall built in partnership with Vulcan, the $26 million renovation of the historic Anderson School into a McMenamins restaurant and entertainment complex, and several new apartment buildings.

Assistant City Manager Peter Troedsson said he does not expect the fire to halt the city’s broader revitalization efforts. Most of the ongoing projects are west of or on the periphery of Main Street, he said.

“Still, one of the components of that revitalization is the enhancement of Main Street, so obviously this is a bit of a setback,” he said.