TUKWILA, Wash. - A deadly 3-alarm fire in Tukwila is burned into Tuesday evening and may continue to burn into the night.
Fire officials say three people have died, a woman and a very young child, and they may have been found in the same apartment unit.
But, the firefight is a complicated task with dangerous risks that is keeping firefighters from attacking the blaze full on.
City utility crews have been busy checking the sewer to make sure it has not been clogged with runoff and debris, while large machinery scooped up runoff from Interurban Avenue. The roadway was closed Tuesday morning.
"It was intense at 6 this morning," said Chase Redus who had a front-row view of the disaster. Her building had not been evacuated but she packed her car with belongings just in case.
Fire officials say they arrived around 5a.m. Tuesday morning and called for 3-alarms. The 32-unit apartment complex was showing heavy fire. Many neighbors were able to escape but tragically, three people did not.
Redus says she knows some of the victims, but she is not ready for the painful reality.
"I’m trying to detach myself from that because I don’t want to feel it right now," she said. "Later on I’ll think about it.
At first, fire crews doused the blaze with water from all directions until they saw the runoff was causing erosion. So much erosion, the large street below the complex began filling with mud and debris. Fire officials say the runoff threatened another occupied building nearby plus more structures below.
Dozens of families were evacuated including Filipanas Mallari. ,
"I ‘m worried about the bushes on the back," she said, "It might get the fire.
Firefighters had to pullback their attack and allowing the fire to burn. Exactly how long evacuated families would be kept away was not immediately known.
"We’ll monitor the situation," said Tukwila Fire Chief Jay Wittwer.
Chanse spent years in the military, which afforded her a front row seat to witness much. But, she says nothing could have prepared her for the crisis unfolding next door.
"It’s devastating," she said. "It’s the most horrific thing I’ve seen up close."
Fire officials said engineers from Tukwila would be working to determine the stability of the hillside, but a timeline for completion was not announced.
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