Burned garbage sits on the property of an illegal dumpsite that has sprung up on Northeast 43rd Street and 7th Avenue Northeast. Photo by Jimmy Lovaas
A fire broke out on a vacant U-District lot serving as an unauthorized dumpsite around midnight Wednesday morning. This was the second time in a month the lot near 7th Avenue Northeast and Northeast 43rd Street was ablaze.
“I had my headphones on, and my roommates told me to come upstairs and look at a fire,” said Ana Knauf, UW senior and resident on Northeast 43rd Street and 8th Avenue Northeast. “We heard something that sounded like a gunshot, and saw the fire burning, and then we called 911. The fire department said they’d already been called.”
The Seattle Fire Department (SFD) arrived on the scene and extinguished the fire in approximately seven minutes, while Knauf and her roommates heard several more pops that they presumed were aerosol cans exploding. Searching for the cause of the blaze took longer, with firemen poking through bushes and the heaps of debris strewn across the concrete foundation.
“We eventually determined it was what we call an accidental incendiary, or improperly discarded materials,” said Kyle Moore, Seattle Fire Department Public Information Officer. “Could have been a cigarette tossed away.”
This is the second time in a month the lot has caught fire, according to the SFD. On Sept. 8, they also were called to an illegal fire.
The extent of Wednesday’s fire was minimal, with blackened grass and waste covering approximately a dozen square feet. However, surrounding trash and discarded furniture posed hazards for a much larger fire. A tent erected in the center of the trash pit was untouched and appeared abandoned.
“We’ve seen two homeless couples there,” Knauf said. “One couple was fighting one night, getting really loud, and we were really concerned. There’s another couple, but we aren’t too sure they live there, as we haven’t seen them around a lot.”
Knauf also speculated that the trash heap was mainly generated not only by cast-off refuse from moving renters but the homeless people that lived in the lot, as she and friends had seen them employ the shopping cart to collect discarded items around the neighborhood.
“There are a number of agencies that could be involved in this,” said Det. Mark Jamieson, public affairs officer of the Seattle Police Department (SPD). “If it’s illegal dumping or camping, then we’ll certainly take a look at it, or it could be a trespassing situation if the owner didn’t give permission … but it’s definitely a matter of who has ownership and who is responsible.”
The owner of the lot has been identified and notified of the incident by the Department of Planning and Development of Seattle (DPD). The DPD enforces housing and maintenance codes, and as they received an earlier complaint regarding the dump from a homeowner nearby, they have already issued a notice.
“The property owner has probably just been away,” said Bryan Stevens, Customer Service Manager and Industrial Permit Liaison of the DPD. “But he’s notified now — we like to have the property owner take responsibility [rather than the city].”
Stevens said the letter notified the owner of the unsafe nature of the lot. As it is a sunken foundation serving as an arena for a garbage sight, it’s potentially dangerous. The owner was also notified of the homeless camping on the site.
“The owner has until Oct. 15 to clean up the property,” Stevens said. “After that it’s a violation, and there’s a letter warning him of the violation, and possible fines.”
Reach reporter Garrett Black at email@example.com. Twitter: @GarrettJBlack
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