Firefighters sift through ashes, damage after a fire burns four apartment units. Olivia Sullivan/staff photo

Firefighters sift through ashes, damage after a fire burns four apartment units. Olivia Sullivan/staff photo

Families displaced after fire at Cove Apartments in Federal Way | Update

Woman saved by neighbor as she jumps from balcony.

A two-alarm fire at the Cove Apartments on 1st Avenue in Federal Way displaced several families and prompted a multi-engine response from South King Fire and Rescue on Thursday.

The fire started around 4 p.m. and spread to four apartment units in the eight-unit complex, displacing seven adults and nine children.

The fire was caused by accidental unattended cooking, said Capt. Jeff Bellinghausen, community affairs officer for South King Fire and Rescue. The fire began on the lower floor and burned upward to the second story units.

There were no injuries or fatalities, including people and pets.

“The complex has done a terrific job of finding homes for each [person] involved,” Bellinghausen said.

About 30-35 firefighters responded, classifying the incident as a two-alarm fire.

When resident Sabina Githaite opened her front door, all she could see was a wall of smoke.

“I didn’t even know there was a fire,” said Githaite, who lived in the apartment above where the fire started. “I opened the door to go to the leasing office and all I saw was black outside.”

She had limited escape options, so she ran to her second-story balcony, she said.

“I saw a guy below me yelling ‘What are you doing there?’” she said. “I was going to jump anyway but luckily, he was there and caught me and that’s how I got out of my apartment. I’m still trying to figure out the whole thing.”

Miraculously, the neighbor saw Githaite just in time and was able to provide a safe landing for her jump.

“I said ‘If you’re going to catch me, I’m going to jump,’” Githaite recalls, noting she has seen the neighbor around the complex before, but had never said more than a quick hello to him.

She has been a resident of the apartments since 2014 and lived in the unit with her 2-year-old daughter. At the time of the fire, her daughter was with a babysitter at a different location.

Once the neighbor and Githaite, along with other apartment residents, were a safe distance away, reality set in, she said.

“I could see the big flames on top of the roof and [there was] so much smoke,” she said. “I left like that, just in my t-shirt and pants. I left my keys on the table, my cellphone, my laptop, my jacket, everything.”

Some of her items were able to be recovered by a SKFR firefighter and Githaite said she is very thankful to both her neighbor and the first responders for their actions.

The American Red Cross Disaster Action Team 5 also responded to the incident and provided assistance of emergency shelter, food, clothing and other urgent needs, said Mat McBride, DAT 5 public information officer for the American Red Cross.

“[The apartment staff] responded amazingly,” said Lyssa Shaak, a resident who has lived at the Cove Apartments for 23 years. “It’s like ‘What do you need? What do we need to do to get you into a safe place?’ They’re just on top of their game. You know our managers care.”

Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

SKFR responded to a fire at Cove Apartments in Federal Way on Thursday evening. Photo courtesy of SKFR

SKFR responded to a fire at Cove Apartments in Federal Way on Thursday evening. Photo courtesy of SKFR

More in News

Multi-Service Center luncheon raises over $95,000

Since the start of the pandemic, the MSC has seen an increase in households seeking food or energy support resources.

King County Executive Dow Constantine welcomes Afghan families to Federal Way in mid-October. Courtesy photo
King County welcomes nearly 130 Afghan refugees to Federal Way

Former hotel purchased for the county’s Health Through Housing program is being used as short-term housing for refugees.

Police identify suspects in Des Moines triple fatal shooting, fight

Des Moines Police asking for public’s help to find Joshua Puloka, aka Joshua Everybodytalksabout

Google Images
Racial disparities in bike helmet law forces decision by King County health board

On Oct. 21, the King County Board of Health discussed striking down… Continue reading

The Federal Way Transit Center's east entrance along 23rd Avenue South remains open. Photo courtesy of Bruce Honda
West entrance of Federal Way Transit Center parking garage closed

Sound Transit officials say the entrance could remain closed for up to a year as crews work on the Federal Way Link Extension.

Virginia Mason Franciscan Health to host Drug Take Back Day event in Federal Way

Safely rid of unused or expired prescription drugs at the Federal Way Regional Medical Center Saturday, Oct. 23.

Jersey Mike’s Subs opening Federal Way store Oct. 27

The sub sandwich shop is hosting a grand opening celebration and fundraiser supporting local schools Oct. 27-31.

Well-fed from the Federal Way Farmers Market: Apple pie cake

Sweet treat uses a variety of seasonal apples found at the Saturday market.

Most Read