Officials: We'll never know what caused International District fire

SEATTLE -- The Seattle Fire Department says it will never know what started the fire that gutted the historic Wah Mee Building in the International District.

The damage was apparently too great and the chain of evidence was destroyed.

The Christmas Eve fire severely damaged the upper floor of the building, and most business owners on the ground floor are only allowed in for a few minutes to gather things and won’t be able to re-open unless major repairs are made.

“This is my whole life,” said Djin Kwie Liem, who has owned an aquarium in the building for nearly 40 years. Liem explained that in Chinese culture, it is considered good luck to buy a new fish for the new year, and he had just recently received an order of more than 10,000 fish. They all died in the fire.

“Just gone,” said Liem. “No food is no problem, but no air no temperature, and fish can’t survive.”

All of the businesses on the ground floor of the Wah Mee building remain closed. Several are red-tagged, which means business owners can only enter the building for ive minutes under escort from the fire department. None of the businesses will be allowed to open back up any time soon.

The building has been infamous the last 30 years since the 1983 Wah Mee Massacre, when 13 people were murdered inside a gambling club in the building. But neighbors say it has been around for more than a century and they would be sad if it had to be destroyed.