The old Seattle Times building, at 1120 John St., in the South Lake Union neighborhood, has been a running problem for public-safety officials because of squatters who set up home there.
A fire at the old Seattle Times building, boarded up to seal off the structure from a continuing flow of transients, brought out firefighters and police Wednesday night. The fire was quickly extinguished, officials said after 9 p.m.
No injuries were reported.
Trespassers were at the vacant building again Wednesday night.
Bryan Hastings, operations battalion chief at the Seattle Fire Department, said authorities talked to at least one person who had been living inside the building and learned that 10 to 12 people had been residing there for more than a year. Most had left the building before crews got inside, he said.
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“It’s a death trap,” Hastings said of the building.
The fire had been burning “for a while,” Hastings said, in a second-floor room in the back. Crews responded to the report shortly before 8:30 p.m., according the city’s 911 call sheet.
Fire department spokesman Lt. Harold Webb said fire investigators were unable to determine the cause of the blaze, which he described as a “pretty good-sized fire.”
“Once we got hose lines, we were able to extinguish the fire,” said Webb, of the Seattle Fire Department.
Access to the building is challenging, he added. Crews used tools and cut through the boarded-up walls to get inside Wednesday. And once there, they used extreme caution due to holes in the floors and other dangerous issues, he said.
The building, at 1120 John St., in the South Lake Union neighborhood, has been a running problem for public-safety officials because of squatters who set up home there. One person said last year that, at the peak, up to 200 people were living inside.
Seattle officials said several months ago that they would be speeding plans for demolition.
The building’s property owner, Onni Group, based in Vancouver, B.C., had been working with city officials on a plan to demolish most of the site to make way for two residential towers. The teardown plan was hastened because of the safety problems, according to Onni.
Company spokesman Evan Lewis said Thursday that Onni is aware of the Wednesday evening fire and the squatters, and has a 24/7 security patrol at the building, which will be demolished as soon as Onni can get the necessary permits.
The old newspaper building, constructed in 1930-31, was deemed a historic landmark in the mid-1990s. The Seattle Times sold the building, located across Boren Avenue from Amazon’s headquarters, to the Onni Group in 2013 after the paper moved to a nearby building on Denny Way in 2011.
During the winter, firefighters fought at least two blazes at the building since mid-November, and police arrested numerous people living inside.