‘This has been a risk;’ Backyard fire at North Seattle home puts neighbors on edge
An early Thursday morning backyard fire at a North Seattle home has left neighbors there outraged and concerned.
The owner of the house says that the people who live there have not paid rent for two years. Neighbors said they have complained to the city about fire hazards several times.
It was shortly before 6 a.m. Thursday when neighbors were awakened by flames and the smell of smoke.
“My partner and I just jump, you know, we’re still in our PJs, run in the backyard and you know the flames are 30 feet in the air,” said Justin Almeida, a neighbor.
Lauren Maclean and her husband Kyle live next door and they said it was terrible.
“I was terrified and panicked and just kept thinking, ‘I’ve got to get my dog, we’ve got to get our paperwork and we’ve got to go,'” Lauren said.
The Seattle Fire Department said the fire was started by a generator, but things got even more dangerous with materials nearby.
“That’s when the gas cans started exploding in the backyard. Probably five or six cans full of gas in there,” Kyle said. Neighbors said firefighters were able to quickly get the flames under control, but they also said they saw this coming.
“This has been a hazard, they’ve been using these generators and they’ve had these gas cans out there for months,” Kyle said. “We reported it to the city and nothing really happened.”
Riz Samad owns the house and said the people there haven’t paid their rent since March 2020. “They stopped paying their rent, they’ve gone (from) bad to worse,” Samad said.
Tenants were protected under the city’s eviction moratorium, but that ended in February of this year. He said the original tenants are a husband and wife with children, but he and neighbors told KIRO 7 there is a constant flow of people coming in and out of the home.
“We just want these people to leave so that these people can live in peace,” Samad said.
The city shut off the electricity and utilities, which is why the tenants have been using a generator, but now those unpaid bills fall on Samad. The bills are about $20,000 for electricity and utilities.
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“I would never advise anyone to own a property in the city of Seattle and rent it out,” Samad said. He and other neighbors said they tried to get help from officials, but got nowhere.
“I met with the mayor, Bruce Harrell, he said maybe he doesn’t know what to do. I’ve met AG Bob Ferguson, I’ve met all the politicians and everybody, nobody has an answer,” Samad said.
Neighbors tell us they feel abandoned by the city.
“I called Councilman Juarez’s office, left a message, tried to call the non-emergency line for SPD, the non-emergency line said go to the website,” Almeida said.
Samad has hired lawyers, but said the legal process has moved slowly. Now, neighbors are also considering legal action.
“I worry about what would have happened if the fire had gotten out of control. I mean, it’s not just our lives, we’re talking about the children’s lives, their lives,” Almeida said.