Everett police were investigating the cause of the fire, including whether it was intentionally set, officer Aaron Snell said.
Detectives on Friday were waiting for a judge to sign off on a search warrant for the scene.
The fire was reported about 2:45 a.m. in the “A” building of the Candlewood Apartments, at the intersection of W. Casino Road and 10th Avenue W.
Everett police were called for a report of malicious mischief after neighbors heard the sound of breaking glass, Snell said. Officers saw smoke and flames and summoned firefighters.
One person was found dead inside the building, Snell said. Two more people were taken to the hospital with injuries not believed to be life-threatening.
The dead person’s age, gender and other details were not immediately made public Friday.
The Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office will determine the person’s cause of death — a process that sometimes can take weeks or months.
At least six apartments in the building remain uninhabitable, Snell said.
The extent of the damage still was being assessed. The American Red Cross was assisting those displaced.
The “A” building in the complex is the same one that caught fire in 2012. No one was hurt in that blaze, an accident attributed to a clothing iron.
As Friday’s fire spread, neighbors ran door-to-door, warning people to get out, said Jenifer Birch, 31.
People shared blankets and sweatshirts to stay warm outside, she said.
Most were allowed to return to their homes about 8:40 a.m., Snell said.
However, some who went back inside reported having breathing problems, and the buildings again were evacuated.
Investigators brought in sensors and other equipment to make sure the area was safe before letting people back in about an hour later.
Birch awoke to a neighbor pounding at her door.
She remembers hearing people scream, and a bang that sounded like a gunshot. Neighbors say they were told it was an oxygen tank or something similar that exploded in the fire.
Birch grabbed her daughter and ran outside. Both were barefoot.
“That’s the only thing I grabbed was my daughter, my glasses and a blanket,” she said.
At one point, someone handed her a pair of socks, and she put them on her daughter.
Birch’s friend, Brandy Jay, 28, lived on the floor above where the fire started.
Her apartment smelled too badly like smoke to return, she said.
The Red Cross told her she was welcome at the shelter.
But Birch told her friend: “You’re not going to a shelter. You’re going to stay at my house.”
Brandy Jay’s sister, Heidi, 30, was among those who brought blankets and sweatshirts outside to share with those waiting for word on their homes.
Some people got inside their cars to stay warm.
Heidi Jay and her boyfriend opened up their apartment in another building at the complex to their friends’ children, to get them out of the cold.
Neighbors say a man and his adult son lived in the apartment where the fire broke out. They were told it was the older man who died.
The pair were known to argue a lot, the women said.
They only knew the older man by his first name, but he always was kind to others in the complex, especially children, Brandy Jay said.
“Every time there’s a bully kid around here and he saw that kid, he’d tell them to back off the other kids,” she said.
The older man would let people who couldn’t afford cable borrow from his movie collection, and he didn’t hassle those who were slow to return his movies.
Jessica Anderson, 27, and her husband and daughter in the “C” building had slept through the sirens, she said, reading a book on her front patio late Friday morning.
Someone came over to tell them a neighbor had died. She saw other neighbors outside who no longer have a home.
“It’s just kind of crazy,” she said.
Rikki King: 425-339-3449; email@example.com.
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