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UPDATED: Five dead in Seattle apartment fire. First arriving engine breaks down. Fireground audio. Response timeline.


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Raw video of briefing by Seattle Fire Chief Gregory Dean

Four children and a young woman were killed in a late morning apartment fire Saturday in the Fremont section of Seattle. A transmission problem with the first Seattle Fire Department engine on the scene intially prevented water from being put on the fire.

Photo by Robert Evans for The Seattle Times.

Here are excerpts from an article by Mike Carter, Susan Kelleher, Eric Pryne and Keith Ervin of The Seattle Times:

The fire was the deadliest in Seattle in decades. It started in Helen Gebregiorgis’ three-bedroom, two-story apartment, where she, her sister and the children had gathered for a sleepover Friday night after coming home from the movie “Karate Kid.”

The fire erupted about 10 a.m. Saturday at the apartment at 334 N.W. 41st St., and quickly became an inferno.

The first firefighters to arrive were unable to fight the intense smoke and flames because a mechanical failure on their engine prevented them from pumping water. The attack on the fire was delayed until another truck arrived minutes later.

One firefighter suffered minor injuries when he jumped from another truck to move a length of hose that had fallen onto the Fremont Bridge as the rig was racing to the fire, said Helen Fitzpatrick, Seattle Fire Department spokeswoman.

Fire Chief Gregory Dean said his department will investigate any delay in attacking the fire. He would not speculate whether the problems may have contributed to the loss of life, saying only that when the first engine arrived, “there was heavy dark smoke and flames coming out, which is pretty hard to sustain life itself.”

“Every moment counts,” he said. “Which is the reason we send multiple units to these fires.”

Still, there was a delay of about 2 and 1/2 minutes in attacking the blaze, records show.

Dean said records show the engines were dispatched at 10:04 a.m. Engine 18 arrived at 10:09 a.m., the second truck about two minutes later, and the third at 10:12 a.m.

“Our firefighters believe they can save everybody, so they’re beating themselves up right now trying to figure out what happened,” he said.

Engine 18, arriving from a station at 1521 N.W. Market St., was the truck that had the mechanical failure, preventing it from pumping water. Dean said crews had conducted tests on the rig Saturday morning and the equipment worked.

“We did have a problem here,” he said.

“Our hearts go out to all these people.”

Timeline provided to The Seattle Times by The Seattle Fire Department:

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