Everett building still unsafe after fire

EVERETT — A historic building in downtown Everett remains uninhabitable after a fatal fire broke out Sunday on the fourth floor.

The American Red Cross housed 20 people from the Hodges building at 1804 Hewitt Ave. overnight after the fire Sunday, said local executive director Chuck Morrison. The people were provided with food, medicine and basic supplies.

On Monday, the Red Cross, the city of Everett and local housing officials were working together on what’s next, Morrison said.

The cause of the 6:40 a.m. fire remains under investigation, Everett city spokeswoman Meghan Pembroke said Monday.

“So far we see no indication of foul play and we haven’t made any arrests, but the investigation is continuing,” she said.

The identity of a woman found dead inside the building was not made public Monday.

Crews still are evaluating the extent of the damage, Pembroke said. The flames were contained to the dead woman’s apartment, however, other units were damaged by smoke and water.

The city condemned the building on Nov. 20 after its stairwell was deemed unsafe because it couldn’t be isolated in a fire, Pembroke said. The issue comes up in older, multi-story buildings downtown, and the city has been working with property owners on fixes, she said.

The building’s owner, Pete Sikov, had until Dec. 20 to make the safety improvements.

“The property owner was making a lot of progress and was actually very close to being done with that work,” Pembroke said.

Sikov also owned the historic McCrossen building, which was destroyed in a fatal fire on the same block in November 2012. As of Monday, city officials had not heard of any plans from Sikov to redevelop the former McCrossen site, Pembroke said.

Although the Hodges was condemned, the city still allowed people to live in the 36-unit building before the fire. That’s no longer the case. The city has ruled the building unsafe to occupy.

Even so, Sikov emailed the newspaper on Monday saying he was working with his insurance company and contractors to get tenants back into 23 units by the end of the week. He hoped to have another eight units ready next week. The building’s remaining apartments, however, sustained more damage and aren’t expected to be inhabitable anytime soon.

“(W)e are looking at alternate locations in the building or nearby so they can have homes quickly as possible,” he wrote.

Inspections were under way to make sure the building’s electrical system could be reactivated, Sikov said. Next steps include drying out rooms soaked by water during the fire and removing damaged materials.

The Hodges building was completed in 1923. Architect Benjamin Turnbull designed several other downtown structures, including the 1910 Commerce building across the street on Hewitt, Everett Public Library historian David Dilgard said.

Fifty-five buildings in Everett are under condemnation, most of which are vacant foreclosed homes, city officials said.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449, rking@heraldnet.com.

The Snohomish County Chapter of the American Red Cross is working to help tenants displaced by Sunday’s fire in the Hodges Building. To contribute to the nonprofit’s mission to help people affected by this, and other disasters, call 425-252-4103 or 1-800-RED-CROSS or go to www.redcross.org/wa/everett.

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