FEDERAL WAY, Wash. -- Investigators have not been able to determine a cause in a May 21 fire at Center Plaza that involved nine businesses.
South King Fire & Rescue says several different agencies as well as investigators and engineers from insurance companies were involved. In addition to examining where the fire began, witnesses, business owners and employees gave statements.
The investigation concluded the fire started the 2NE Pho restaurant. It started in the kitchen or the attic above of the kitchen. There was extensive fire damage in this area. But investigators say cooking appliances didn't cause the fire.
South King Fire & Rescue said there was no indication of a crime. Nor did investigators find any indication of careless behavior on the part of business owners or employees.
FEDERAL WAY, Wash. - Fire investigators are digging through the remains of a Federal Way strip mall, looking for a cause of a massive fire that destroyed the complex over weekend.
The fire broke out around 4:30 a.m. Sunday, and quickly engulfed the Center Plaza located along S 320th, directly across from The Federal Way Commons.
Fire crews said the complex went up in flames fast because there was no sprinkler system. It wasn't required by law.
South King Fire and Rescue officials said the fire spread from business to business through the attic. Eventually the roof collapsed. A fire fighter sustained a minor injury, but no one was seriously hurt.
The fire department said nine businesses were involved, including a Subway sandwich shop and several mom and pop enterprises which include a restaurant, small grocery, bakery and a music and games store.
"It's just so sad," said Federal Way resident Kim Cogger looking at the ruins. "I've been here all my life and this is just shocking."
Fire investigators have been looking in the northeast section of the building, but at this time don't have a cause or a place where the fire may have started.
They said the fire spread unchecked, without a sprinkler system to stop it. These buildings were constructed in 1979 before the law was passed that required them.
The same thing happened a week ago in Bellevue. Nine units were damaged when the fire broke out at Bellevue's Columbia Business Park.
That complex included a day care center, retail spaces and an auto business. There, too, no sprinklers. But, they were required.
"Thank God I'm okay," said June Paik. She owns a wig shop in the identical building next door to the Federal Way strip mall and worries about not having sprinklers. "I never thought that we needed them."
Paik now wonders if it's possible to put in a system, realizing it may be too expensive.
"We don't know the cost to bring the sprinkler system in to protect our business, unless the landlord shares the cost," Paik said.
But, fire officials said even just one sprinkler could have made a difference.
"One sprinkler head with a little bit of water would have controlled this fire," said South King Fire and Rescue fire marshal Gordy Goodsell.
"At some point you have to retrofit the building just for everybody's safety," said Mall customer Dimitry Litzinov said,
Even though most commercial buildings aren't required to retroactively install sprinklers, nightclubs and restaurants with more than a hundred customers do have to put in sprinklers, no matter when they were built.