News

FWay house fire scene too dangerous for investigators

By ERICA HALL

Staff writer

The cause of a Sunday evening house fire in Federal Way will remain undetermined unless King County fire investigators decide to shore up the caving walls and collapsed floors of the 2,000-square-foot, two-story home in order to take a closer and safer look.

Federal Way Fire Department investigators won’t be going into the home, which is threatening to collapse from the damage caused by the blaze.

The family that rented the house, located down a 100-foot driveway in the 29400 block of 59th Avenue South, had recently moved to an apartment complex on Military Road South, Fire Department spokeswoman Debbie Goetz said.

No one was injured in the fire, though Goetz said the whereabouts of a pet dog and cat were unknown. Another cat was found.

The husband and wife apparently had been at the house during the day Sunday, but returned to their Military Road apartment about 5:30 p.m. Two hours later, a neighbor called 9-1-1 to report the house was on fire.

When firefighters arrived, there were flames coming from the side of the house and smoke billowing from the roof.

The house was too unstable to enter, so firefighters fought the fire defensively, keeping it contained to the house to prevent it from spreading to nearby trees or neighbors’ homes, officials said.

The fire appears to have started between the first and second floor of the house in the space between the garage ceiling and the floor above it, Goetz said. Flames ate away the exterior wood siding between the floors, exposing the charred construction that ultimately led to the ceiling’s collapse.

Rows of zig-zagged, wooden braces between the sheetrock ceiling of the garage and the wooden sub-floor above it created triangular pockets that ran the length of the house, allowing the fire to spread unchecked between the floors.

As the support braces burned, the second floor collapsed into the garage. The back wall of the house separated from the second-story deck, caving inward toward the garage. Heat and smoke charred the siding between the first and second floor on the exterior side of the house opposite where the fire started.

Firefighters kept the fire contained to the house, then kept watch over it during the night to make sure hot spots didn’t flare up again.

Windows shattered and everything in the house was charred and coated in a smokey residue — Goetz said fire investigators estimated a couple thousand dollars in damage to the contents — and the house itself, worth $148,000, was considered a total loss. No part of the house will be salvageable, she said.

Goetz wasn’t sure if the family had renters insurance, but said they had already moved most of their belongings to their new apartment.

The owner of the home recently moved to Arizona, Goetz said.

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565, ehall@fedwaymirror.com

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