Investigation underway after fire severely damages tavern on popular White Center street

Fire marshals are investigating a fire that severely damage the Locker Room Tavern in White Center.

The Puget Sound Regional Fire Authority responded to the fire after dispatchers received a 911 call around 5:00 a.m. Wednesday.

As firefighters began clearing the scene, employees were escorted inside to see the damages from a safe distance. Staff said from what they could see some of the interior walls were damaged and a freezer was destroyed.

Richard McKenzie, the morning bartender, said he was stunned watching the large flames when he showed up for work.

"I get here about five minutes before 5:00 A.M., that’s when I start my shift. And I just see everything up in flames, smoke billowing out right here and I was just shocked and overwhelmed," said McKenzie.

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Flames were burning through the roof when fire fighters showed up. The response was upgraded to a second-alarm fire because flames were quickly growing.

The concern was the fire spreading to neighboring businesses due to close proximity. Crews were able to put out fire just in time so that no other buildings were damaged.

"One building has a firewall, so obviously that was intact that helped with the spread. And then just the aggressive nature of the attack from firefighters," said Pat Pawlak, division chief and public information officer of the Puget Sound Regional Fire Authority.

The tavern, located near the intersection of 16th Ave SW and SW 98th Street, has been in the community for years. The morning bartender said loyal customers usually start their day at the bar and grill.

"6:00 A.M. is when we open. Luckily, none of our customers were here. I would have hated to see any of our customers get hurt by this. Everyone here is like family," said McKenzie.

Officials said no one was hurt in the fire. A cause has not been determined, but an investigation is underway.

"I think it's just crazy. I don't even know what could have started it in the first place. I don't know who could have wanted to do this, if it was done with malice or anything. I hope for nothing but the best and hope it was just a freak accident," said McKenzie.

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