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3-alarm fire destroys Greenwood businesses

One-hundred Seattle firefighters battled a massive 3-alarm blaze in downtown Greenwood early this morning. The fire began at 208 N. 85 St., at either Pho Tic Tac or the Green Bean Coffeehouse. Both businesses, along with Szechuan Bistro and C.C. Teriyaki, were destroyed. Click here for video.

This is the front of Pho Tic Tac and the Green Bean Coffeehouse next door, both engulfed in flames at 5:30 a.m. We arrived on the scene at 4:30 a.m. and watched as the fire intensified, flames shooting out the windows and high into the air. By 6 a.m., only smoke was coming from the businesses.

Only the brick frame of the Eleanor Roosevelt Building remains. The Taproot Theatre, immediately to the west, has escaped the flames but has suffered smoke and water damage, according to Scott Nolte, the theater’s producting artistic director. We watched as firefighters went in and out of the Taproot in thick smoke to try to prevent the flames from spreading. The Greenwood Academy of Hair also escaped fire damage, according to the owner.
About a dozen apartments in the same building were evacuated, and firefighters broke into the PAWS Cat City Adoption Center and safely evacuated the cats inside. Heavy smoke blew north of the fire, which has undoubtedly filled many homes and apartments nearby.

Firefighters attacked this fire on all sides, with three ladders in the air. Central Greenwood is shut down to traffic in all directions, radiating out about three blocks from 85th and Greenwood. Buses were being rerouted to 3rd Avenue from about 80th to 90th Street. Hoses are stretched as far as three blocks.
Soon after fire crews arrived, firefighters had to retreat out of the business and fight the flames from the outside. The roof ultimately collapsed. “It’s uncommon with the fire to be this far along before we get a call,” fire spokeswoman Dana Vander Houwen told us on the scene, stopping short of calling the fire suspicious. She said it would take several hours before investigators would be able to gain access to the burned out building. Remember that fire investigators have yet to catch an arsonist responsible for several Greenwood fires earlier this year.
“I hate to see our neighborhood take a step back,” said Greg, a neighborhood resident, staring at the burned out building.

Standing across the street, staring with a stunned expression into the burned out building, Green Bean manager Summer Mohrlang said many would be devastated by the loss of the popular coffee shop. “I’m hoping it’s not arson. I hope it’s an accident,” she said. “I’m really sad for the businesses on either side. This is all they had.”
Water rained down inside Taproot’s lobby and insulation cascaded down the stairs leading to the upper lobby, where firefighters were cutting holes in the ceilings and walls to make sure the fire hadn’t spread to the theater. “We may not be on fire, but the effort to be extra, extra careful is really going to set us behind,” Scott Nolte said.
“That’s dreams going up in flames,” said Pam Nolte, Taproot’s co-founder.
Taproot bought the Eleanor Roosevelt building in 2000, with an eye toward eventually expanding into that space. There were no near-term plans to do so.
“We need to get the theater back open. When we have shows, there’s a lot of surrounding businesses that thrive,” as people come to Greenwood to eat dinner or have dessert after a show, Scott Nolte said.
Taproot has three more performances of “Enchanted April” scheduled for today and Saturday. They’ll try to find another space and they encourage people to check their website for updates.
Their next play, “Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Carol,” opens the day after Thanksgiving.
We just got a note from PAWS’ Executive Director Annette Laico, who says all 11 of the cats from PAWS Cat City are safe and now at the PAWS shelter in Lynnwood. “We are very appreciate of the firefighters’ concern for the welfare of the animals at Cat City,” Laico said, “and grateful for their quick response.”
Stay tuned for more updates, and follow us on Twitter, too.
And thanks to everyone who emailed tips or commented on the story – especially Silver! – adding their own perspectives from nearby homes and businesses. Community collaboration is what this is all about! If you live or work near the scene, please email us or put a note in comments when the roads at the scene are cleared for traffic.
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