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Published: Tuesday, November 13, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Cleanup, investigation of Everett fire could take weeks

The cause of the fire is still under investigation and the building is too dangerous for inspectors to enter.

EVERETT -- The mess left after a deadly fire in downtown Everett last week could take weeks to clean up, city officials said Monday.
The three-alarm blaze on Thursday night at 1814 Hewitt Ave. left one person dead, two people injured and nearly 40 displaced. Destroyed was the 118-year-old McCrossen Building, including 13 apartments and at least three businesses. At least one nearby building sustained damage that's still being assessed.
No new information was available Monday about the person found dead in the fire. The body was removed from the building Saturday and transferred to the Snohomish County Medical Examiner's Office, Everett police officer Aaron Snell said. The person's age, gender and name were not immediately known. Snohomish County offices were closed Monday in observance of the Veterans Day holiday.
Two other people who were hospitalized late Thursday night after possibly inhaling smoke while watching the fire were expected to recover, city spokeswoman Kate Reardon said.
As of Monday, all but one of the surviving fire victims had found temporary or permanent alternate housing, said Chuck Morrison, executive director of the American Red Cross in Snohomish County. The Red Cross was working Monday with the family of one man who was not home and may not have known about the fire.
Some of the victims already found new apartments in a nearby building owned by the same landlord, Morrison said. Several others were staying with relatives.
The victims were provided with money for food, clothing and emergency medical prescriptions, Morrison said. About 38 of them stayed at a Red Cross shelter Thursday night, a number that dwindled to three Friday night.
"We're still reaching out," Morrison said. "Case workers are still calling them all every day or every other day just to see if there's any other emergent needs we can assist with."
The cause of the fire remains under investigation, Snell said. The building still isn't safe for police and fire investigators to enter.
Over the weekend, they used a fire department ladder truck to hoist investigators above the scene to take aerial photos.
The entire McCrossen Building will have to come down, Reardon said. It and the building next door have been tagged as too dangerous for any unauthorized access.
A contractor has peeled away most of the external brick walls facing Hewitt and Oakes avenues, Reardon said. The intersection and surrounding area was closed until Sunday afternoon because of the danger of collapse.
Most of Sunday was spent removing debris from nearby streets and sidewalks, she said.
Officials on Monday still were calculating the total dollar value of the damage. The destroyed businesses within the McCrossen Building were a pizza shop, an antiques store and a custom cabinetry shop.
The building next door housed law and accounting offices. Its owner must have the property reviewed by a structural engineer before those offices can reopen, Reardon said.
It's still not clear if the two buildings shared a wall, which could signify more serious damage than clearly visible
The fire was Everett's largest since the 2008 blaze that destroyed the Stewart Title Co. offices along Wetmore Avenue.
The sheer size of the fire, combined with its busy, central location, has required the help of hundreds of people in the past few days, Reardon said. In addition to the 97 firefighters who battled the flames, the city has been working with the property owners and their insurance companies, Snohomish County PUD, Puget Sound Energy, Comcast Arena and Everett's own utility and building crews, among others.
"The city of Everett appreciates that coordination very much because we were able to get done what we needed to get done for public safety purposes," Reardon said.
City officials ask for people to be patient around that area in the coming weeks, she said. The demolition likely will be complicated, and take several stages.
Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com
Story tags » EverettFireConstruction & Property

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