Fire-damaged Hodges building OK’d for occupation

EVERETT — City officials on Friday cleared most apartments in the fire-damaged Hodges building for occupancy, though they’re asking the landlord to fix some lingering issues.

A Dec. 15 blaze at 1804 Hewitt Ave. killed Wendy A. Pirring, 47, of Everett and displaced about three dozen other Hodges tenants.

Fire investigators still are working to identify the cause.

“Right now the investigation is still not completed,” Fire Marshal Rick Robinson said Friday.

The Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office has yet to rule the cause and manner of Pirring’s death.

At the time of the fire, the 1923-vintage downtown building had been under a condemnation order, though people still were allowed to live there providing problems were fixed by a city deadline. The order required landlord Pete Sikov to install fire-proofing around the building’s stairwells. By mid-December, he was getting close to finishing that work.

The fire Pirring died in was confined to her unit, so code violations in the stairwell would not have been a factor. Investigators’ early findings suggested the fire started near an overloaded electrical outlet.

Closed doors and durable construction materials likely prevented flames from spreading to the hallway or other apartments.

After the fire, the city placed the building under new condemnation orders, on top of the existing one.

The city wanted to ensure that each habitable room has at least two electrical outlets. The city also ordered a survey to verify that the building’s electrical system has adequate capacity.

On Friday, building inspectors signed off on stairwell and electrical upgrades, city spokeswoman Meghan Pembroke said.

“We have lifted those condemnations and issued a temporary certificate of occupancy,” Pembroke said.

People can now move into the two dozen apartments that escaped fire or water damage. It’s unclear whether the same occupants will be returning after a month and a half away.

“Of the 24 units, most of the tenants have already relocated,” Sikov said Friday. “We will be contacting those tenants that expressed their intention to resume their tenancy, so we can coordinate return for those persons this coming week.”

The city on Friday granted Sikov another 90 days to repair the 12 units with fire or water damage.

Another problem is the building’s elevator, which isn’t working and was the subject of a city order issued before the fire. Sikov said water used to fight the blaze poured into the elevator system, complicating repairs.

He’s under a Feb. 14 deadline to fix the elevator, Pembroke said. A failure to comply could jeopardize the certificate of occupancy.

Herald writer Rikki King contributed to this report. Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

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