SEATTLE — A Christmas Eve fire in Seattle’s international district has raised some old ghosts.
The building that erupted in flames Tuesday was the site of Washington state’s deadliest mass killing — the 1983 Wah Mee massacre.
The large, out-of-control fire began at about 4 p.m. in the three-story building, forcing more than 20 people living nearby to evacuate, fire officials said. The top two floors have been vacant, but the bottom floor houses businesses whose staff and customers were evacuated.
Though the fire was unrelated to the 104-year-old structure’s history, locals found the coincidence creepy, The Seattle Times reported in Wednesday’s newspaper.
“That building’s haunted,” said Joaquin Uy, a social-services advocate who lives on Beacon Hill but spends a lot of time in the Chinatown International District.
In the early morning hours of Feb. 19, 1983, three men entered the illegal Wah Mee gambling club in the building’s basement and hogtied, robbed and shot 14 patrons. Thirteen of them died. One survived and was able to identify the assailants.
The Washington Department of Corrections parole board decided at the end of October to parole one of the men convicted in the mass killing after 30 years in prison and turn him over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement to deport him to Hong Kong.
Wai Chiu “Tony” Ng (eng) was convicted of robbery and assault for his role in the shooting at the Wah Mee club.
Co-defendants Kwan Fai “Willie” Mak and Benjamin Ng were convicted of aggravated murder and are serving life sentences without the chance of parole. Tony Ng is not related to Benjamin Ng.
The fire was declared under control at 10:23 p.m. Tuesday, though firefighters continued to battle it through the night and into the morning, KING-TV reported.
The cause is still under investigation, and no loss estimate was available.