South King Fire & Rescue firefighters responded to a fire that destroyed nine businesses at Center Plaza across from The Commons mall early Sunday morning. Courtesy of Shelley Pauls

Federal Way loses 9 businesses in huge Sunday fire

Kathy Peterson and her husband got the call Sunday morning.

Their Emerald City Smoothie, along with eight other businesses in the same shopping complex in Federal Way, was on fire.

By the time they got to Center Plaza, their business was burned down to the ground.

“We’re an independent franchisee, so it’s a total loss for us,” Peterson said. “We’re not sure what we’re going to do at this point.”

South King Fire &Rescue got the 911 call at approximately 4:25 a.m. Sunday, and firefighters were at the scene five minutes later, Capt. Jeff Bellinghausen said. He said the 22,000-square-foot building, 2020 S. 320th St., that housed the businesses didn’t have a fire alarm or sprinkler system.

On Wednesday evening, SKFR announced, based on fire patterns and early photos and videos, officials believe the fire originated in the north end of the building.

“The volume of fire debris, along with the many potential sources of ignition, makes for a time-consuming and complicated investigation,” Deputy Chief Gordon Goodsell said in the announcement. “For this particular fire, the investigation will include bringing in subject-matter experts and electrical engineers to examine the scene. This detailed examination may go on for a couple of weeks.”

The blaze gutted Subway, Total Vape, Mi Tiendita Latina II, Al’s Music &Games, 2NE Pho, Ace Dry Cleaners, the Emerald City Smoothie, a Smoke Shop and MOA Hair Studio.

“The building and contents value is estimated at $5 million,” Bellinghausen said. “But the cost to the lives of those who owned and worked at these local businesses is much harder to calculate and our thoughts are with them.”

Although Peterson doesn’t yet know the estimated cost of damage to her store, she said they lost a lot of equipment. Luckily, she and her husband own another smoothie shop in the Twin Lakes area, but other business owners aren’t so lucky.

“I just feel really sorry for everybody in that complex,” she said.

An owner from Pac Island Grill, which was not impacted by the fire, started a gofundme page for the nine merchants affected. The fundraising goal is $50,000, or about $5,000 per business.

Bellinghausen said one firefighter sustained a minor injury. Firefighters used an estimated 1 million gallons of water.

“There are several large buildings adjacent to the fire building, but crews were able to keep damage to a minimum in the next-door business,” Bellinghausen said. “There is a small amount of water damage in one occupancy.”

Goodsell said the fire department, Federal Way police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are working together to determine the cause. The ATF is assisting in processing the fire scene and conducting interviews while the police department has provided an interpreter for witness interviews and will be responsible for criminal investigation if one is discovered.

Officials set up a fence around the perimeter of the building, and 24-hour security is in place until the investigation is complete.

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