Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Huge fire in Renton claims complex

At a few minutes of eight this evening the sirens began to sound and people left their homes to see a huge column of bright orange flames topped by a large plume of black smoke drift from the Sunset Hills area of Renton. The above photo is on Houser Way, near the Value Village Store and you can see that the flames are incredibly visible even from this distance. After the 5 Alarm Fire in downtown Renton only days ago, citizens are more sensitive to the sound of the fire truck and medics as they charged up the hill.

This is a Tukwila fire engine responding just minutes before eight and heading up 4th street to get at the fire through the "back door". I was not able to go onto the side of Sunset Ave to see the effect of the fire from there, but I saw a few medic vans battling traffic on the side streets even this early in the fire and knew that streets were quickly being shut off.

These photos are all taken from the park behind Highlands Elementary School and from the school's playground itself. This is when it pays to be on a bike. People had to leave their cars and walk to see what was occurring. Most were from the neighborhood at large. Everyone could see the flames and the shock of the initial fire sent a shake and shiver through homes all around. Not unlike the feeling of an earthquake shutter and the sound of a loud "pop". Folks knew something was not right.

This is at the corner of NE 9th Street and Harrington, where a very new and large apartment complex called Harrington Square was under construction. The outside balconies were just beginning to be built and new appliances were seen being delivered to outfit the interiors within the last day or so. These were as yet unoccupied residences.

Rather ironic is the fact that at this very corner, in what now houses the Pablanos Auto Repair on NE 9th, this brick building once was the fire station. It was moved to NE 12th Street sometime ago.

On this corner there was also an Espresso Stand - and all that is left of that structure is the sign that is hanging up right next to the swinging stop light that you can just make out in the above photo. (As I write this to you in North Renton the air is full of heavy smoke wafting through my open window).

These are all of the neighbors who have come through the opened gates at the Highland Elementary School and are standing in what is the baseball field which happens to be exactly at the corner where the burning fire is located. Everyone is on their phone, taking photos, taking videos. The news is spreading like the wild fire that burns in front of us through the ease of modern technology. Everyone is a mini-journalist to an audience of friends and family.

This is a fire engine from Bellevue that has come to Renton's aid. This fire IS a 4 ALARM FIRE and is much larger than the one we just went through downtown. This will have brought in far more than the 119 firemen that we had on June 11th. Already, we have fire stations included in this fire that didn't have to come to our aid the last time. You can see that the spout of fire causes a rainbow effect in the air that is not occluded by smoke. Alongside of where this engine sits are single level small apartment units that seem to be out of harms way.

In this photo, later on, you can see that the bulk of the large shooting flames have been put out and an entirely large portion of this apartment complex is completely gone.

However, just as that portion of the flames die, what I think maybe a private residence on the corner of NE 9th and Harrington suddenly bursts into flames and the roof begins to glow and then go.

From my position I could see at least 7 streams of water hitting at the fire, and it wasn't possible to battle the impeded roads and cordoned off streets to see what, if anything, was happening on the Sunset Ave. side of this complex where there is a Safeway, a Pizza Hut and a Kentucky Fried Chicken. I am guessing that there were many more fire trucks and medics surrounding this entire area on all sides. On Kirkland and NE 10th Street there is the Highlands Community Church as well - and I have no idea at this time whether that building was affected at all.

This is Elizabeth Landrum, lifetime Rentonite, neighbor and a blogger's best resource. Elizabeth felt her entire house shake tonight when the fire began, as if someone might have run into her home. She left her house in her 'jammies and large shoes to investigate. Elizabeth grew up in this neighborhood and watched the progress of Harrington Square as it grew. It was just becoming apparent that the street level was going to sport retail space, and she was looking forward to maybe seeing a bookstore go in. Thanks go out to Elizabeth for letting me bend her ear and for her wonderful information that I was able to impart to all of you.
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