Electrical overheating most likely the cause of a massive fire that destroyed four Ballard businesses

SEATTLE - Investigators say the massive fire that destroyed four businesses in the heart of Seattle's Ballard neighborhood was most likely started by electrical overheating somewhere between the roof and ceiling in the back of the building.

On Monday, the smoke was so thick that some Ballard residents say they couldn’t see out their windows. On Tuesday with the smoke gone, people in the community truly saw the extent of the destruction.

Ivonne Vander Vlies, who has worked in Ballard for more than 20 years, broke down in tears seeing the aftermath for the first time.

“What happened? Look at this, this is a disaster. Nothing is good, everything is gone,” Vlies said.

Vlies says she’s been to all of the four destroyed businesses. Kitchen n Things, La Isla, Supercuts and Octo Designs along NW Market Street are total losses. Pho Big Bowl sustained water and smoke damage.

Firefighters say a fire wall between Octo Designs and Pho Big Bowl helped to prevent the fire from spreading further.

Vlies says she feels terrible for the owners and families affected.

Q13 News witnessed David Coleman picking up many pieces of jewelry from the front display of Octo Designs Tuesday morning.

Coleman recently partnered with a new owner, who changed the name from Coleman Jewelers to Octo Designs. The new owner of the jewelry store didn’t want to be identified, but he and Coleman say they are hoping the person who owns the building will rebuild.

“I am broken up about it after 25 years of being here,” Coleman said.

He never imagined he would be putting his precious inventory into a trash bag.

“Most of the stuff we can clean and refinish,” Coleman said.

City leaders took in the damage during a tour of the scene on Tuesday. They listened to concerns from the business community.

One man expressed concerns about the back of the charred building crashing down into a neighboring building. That worry is forcing businesses like Classic Consignment nearby to close.

Seattle Fire says it will be up to the owner of the building to hire a structural engineer to see about stabilizing the structure.

The insurance company will determine an estimated loss but Seattle Fire says the loss right now is estimated around $3 million.

Firefighters say this incident is a good reminder for businesses to have a working smoke alarm and a fire escape plan for employees and customers.

The affected area along NW Market Street has been fenced off and a portion of the sidewalk closest to the affected businesses will remain closed indefinitely.

One firefighter was injured during the intense battle against the flames. That firefighter has been released and is doing ok.

Mike Stewart with the Ballard Alliance says his group set up a GoFundMe page and in less than 24 hours community members have donated more than $15,000 to help affected businesses.