A man and a woman were found dead inside a structure made of pallets after an early-morning fire at a homeless encampment in Seattle’s Mount Baker neighborhood, according to the Seattle Fire Department.
Just after 3 a.m. Monday, fire crews responded to the 3000 block of 25th Avenue South and doused 50-foot flames with water, said a post on the Fire Department’s online blotter. The blaze at the homeless encampment, which sat in a heavily wooded area, also burned surrounding trees and bushes.
Once the fire was extinguished, crews found the bodies of a man and woman inside a “pallet structure,” the post said. The cause of the fire was ruled undetermined, pending autopsies by the King County Medical Examiner’s Office. The man and woman who died have not been publicly identified.
No other nearby residents suffered any injuries or smoke inhalation, fire spokesperson Kristin Tinsley said Monday afternoon.
The Fire Department reminded residents that fires at encampments can often spread rapidly: Tents are highly flammable and encampments are often set up near brush. Because those living in encampments also don’t usually have standard fire safety systems in place, like smoke alarms, fires can present a “significant danger” to them.
In a fire safety flyer, the Fire Department warned residents against setting up tents next to buildings or near a lot of vegetation to prevent a potential blaze from spreading to other areas.
Last summer, after the COVID-19 pandemic forced some homeless shelters to reduce the number of beds and encampments in Seattle grew and multiplied, the department saw a jump in fires at campsites. Outreach workers said some of the increase could be connected to disruptions in food programs, since the pandemic forced some churches and agencies to limit their meals and hours.
Last August, fire crews responded to 94 encampment fires, compared with just 38 during the same month the previous year.
Encampment fire data is not yet available for 2021, Tinsley said.
Seattle Times staff reporter Scott Greenstone contributed to this story.