Fire in downtown Everett kills 1, displaces 36

EVERETT — A fire on Sunday morning killed a woman and displaced three dozen other people, all tenants in a downtown building where city officials had ordered the owner to make fire-safety upgrades.

The Hodges Building, at 1804 Hewitt Ave., sits on the same block as the now-demolished McCrossen Building, the site of another fatal fire just over a year ago. The same person owns both properties via different companies. He was under a city condemnation order to make The Hodges safer.

Hodges residents told of being woken up by fire alarms around 6:40 a.m. Tristian Barnett, asleep in a fifth-floor apartment, said it took him a few minutes to register what was happening.

“I see these people running up and down the hallway,” he said. “‘Get up, we’re going to have to get out of here.’”

Later that morning, Barnett, 26, stood a nearby corner, clutching his girlfriend’s shivering cat, Furball.

Former Hodges residents had been congregating there for hours, as fire crews searched the building. They held pets and belongings. A shirtless man with an unzipped jacket and dressed only in boxer shorts coughed on the sidewalk. A couple of guitars were slung over one person’s shoulder.

Barnett observed that the fire had left “a lot of people without homes, for now.”

David Sours, 45, said he and others are strapped financially because they just paid a full month’s rent.

“None of us have any money to relocate,” Sours said, summing up common frustrations. “It’s Christmas time.”

The Snohomish County Chapter of the American Red Cross was helping people with shelter, food and medical supplies.

Fire crews had arrived at the building to find smoke and flames coming from a fourth-floor window, Everett police officer Aaron Snell said.

The first firefighters on scene called for backup, then spent about an hour battling the flames, from outside and later inside the building.

“While they were inside, they discovered the body of a deceased person,” Snell said.

The woman’s identification was held, pending an autopsy by the Snohomish County Medical Examiner.

Tenants said she was someone they knew from the building.

Aside from the fatality, no other injuries were reported, Snell said.

While there were no early signs of foul play, arson detectives were called in to assist in the investigation, Snell said.

“There is no indication that it was arson at this time,” he said.

The five-story Hodges Building occupies the southeast corner of Hewitt and Rockefeller avenues.* Available records give differing construction dates, in 1918 and 1923.

It’s just the latest downtown Everett historic building to succumb to fire.

An Oct. 5, 2011 blaze displaced more than two dozen people at the Strand Hotel on Colby Avenue. Investigators determined that an unattended candle sparked that fire in the 1915 building. No injuries were reported.

A Nov. 8, 2012, fire destroyed the 1894 McCrossen Building at 1814 Hewitt Ave. Fire investigators never determined the exact cause, but found nothing suspicious. Michael D. Beard, 61, died of smoke inhalation. About 40 people were displaced.

The McCrossen Building was demolished in March. Several people who escaped Sunday’s fire said they earlier lived at the Strand Hotel or the McCrossen Building.

Pete Sikov is the landlord for both the Hodges Building and McCrossen property. The ownership is under two different limited liability companies in his name.

Reached by phone, Sikov said he learned about the latest fire around 11 a.m. Sunday. He said was unable to discuss the situation further because he was busy talking to affected tenants.

Sikov’s tenants said they had received recent notices about the city ordering the installation of fire doors and other safety features, but were told they would be able to continue living there. Everett spokeswoman Meghan Pembroke confirmed that city building officials had ordered improvements. She expected to have more details this week.

Mark Mulligan and Scott North contributed to this report. Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

Help Red Cross

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.

*Correction, Dec. 16, 2013: The Hodges Building is on the southeast corner of Hewitt and Rockefeller avenues. An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated its location.

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