Yesterday, in the early morning hours of July 22nd, several explosions were heard in the area of 102nd and Main Street. Neighbors looked out their windows to find the historic Mercantile Building, which was being expanded into multistory apartments, engulfed in flames.
Morning traffic reports warned drivers that State Route 522 was shut down near Kaysner Way. Nearly 100 firefighters from Bothell and neighboring agencies including Kirkland, Northshore, Woodinville, and Redmond converged on a three-alarm fire that was being spread by wind.
If you know Bothell, Washington, you probably think of its quaint downtown core before you think of the bigger name stores further north and east. Rows of older buildings line Main Street for blocks with, for the most part, no separation between them. Banks, pubs, a clothing store, a furniture store, art galleries, antique shops, and various eateries create a small town feel despite massive new construction nearby.
Midday a trip down 522 showed warning signs that something was wrong.
Power and internet were knocked out in parts of downtown by the fire. Crews worked hard to restore service.
The fire continued to smolder. The stench of burning building blanketed the air. Note the crane at the left. More on that soon.
Today crowds gathered downtown to make sense of what had just happened. Bothell Public Works had an eductor truck on Main Street. These vehicles are like giant vacuums and are often used to clean out storm drains. There was a great deal of foam and debris to clean up and the Sammamish Slough is just down the hill.
I’d heard Alexa’s Cafe was damaged but am not sure. So far I haven’t heard the same about the Three Lions Pub immediately to the right. It was open and looked intact.
Looking east down the north side of Main Street.
Seeing this sale sign made me realize how hard some of these businesses are going to be fighting to stay alive. Some might be done for.
Approaching ground zero on the southwest corner of 102nd and Main. This is what’s left of the Kozy Corner Cafe and the poor trees around it.
This is (was) the Mercantile Building, recently rechristened The Mercantile as its interior was gutted and rebuilt to support the residential units on top of it. Most locals agree this is where the fire started and many suspect that it was arson although there have been no official reports to that effect yet. The bridge and senior center nearby are okay.
Fires are strange. Some things burn, others don’t. This particular tree actually looked less singed than others despite the intense heat right next to it.
The crane being used on The Mercantile project melted.
Bothell Fire still had a truck on scene.
Note the melted Honey Buckets.
Someone I was talking to said, “look at the bushes behind us.” Despite being across the street, the bushes were crispy, including the rhodie to the left.
Looking up Main to the east towards Sundance Energy, which I originally heard was destroyed, then heard was saved.
The driveway to the back of the Logsdon Building was closed. Lynn Logsdon, the dear woman who owns the building, was kind enough to fill me in on the conditions of some of the buildings around hers. Hers, despite being right across the street, was unscathed. I know that prayers often go out for the safety of this place.
From the west side, the First Lutheran Church with its beautiful cross appeared to be undamaged.
Walking around the block, I found a crowd gathered at Sundance Energy, which is temporarily operating out of a different location. Across the street is the Frontier building which sounds like is a loss. I was surprised to see the two propane tanks on the front of that trailer intact given some other damage farther north on the property.
From Sundance, which is uphill from 102nd, you could see the roof of the Mercantile Building.
The landscaping along Main was decimated and the Wells Fargo signs melted.
Note the damage to the trailer. I’m not sure what the charred pieces are in the background.
The Mercantile across the street.
The roof is just a mess. It’s obvious how hot the fire was.
The front of Sundance’s property looks like an ebony moonscape.
Nobody’s going to be using that picnic table or… barbeque (?) again.
Sundance will need community support to get back up and running. They are housed in older buildings that I’m amazed weren’t lost.
There appeared to be pry marks on the door, likely from the firefighters’ entry.
Sundance wisely had some literature about their services on a table. Note how the table is warped and pitted from the heat and embers.
The roof on this back building was damaged more than the others.
Wow. This recycling bin was a significant distance from Main Street. It could have been moved, but it seemed to be in its logical place next to the dumpster.
Zulu’s was one of the businesses damaged by the fire. Two other area businesses are donating their proceeds on July 25th and 27th to help them and the Kozy Corner. Some of us lookie loos decided to go in for a beverage and one woman bought jalapeno poppers for the group. Strangers might not normally talk to each other in this area, but today, we were family.
The Frontier building. Note the van from the disaster recovery company and the damage along the right roof line. We discussed how many under 30 might not know what that blue and white box is for other than recognizing it as something Dr. Who rides around in.
Everything is closed. Don’t even try. Police and security are maintaining an active presence on this stretch.
More charred remains from the front of Sundance Energy.
Bothell Public Works had multiple vehicles on scene and by all accounts did a knockout job during and after this event. It’s not just Public Safety who handles emergencies. Public Works is always close behind.
Looking out at Zulu’s deck with its awning still curiously intact.
Water damage inside Zulu’s.
Zulu’s had the best view of the Mercantile’s roof. There are hot spots to the right and left.
Upon closer examination, Zulu’s tent was pitted with holes from the fire.
The Mercantile’s roof looks like it was hit by a bomb.
Fried foliage, cooked crane.
The view to the west over the fence at Zulu’s.
A lot of businesses have had to air out their buildings.
One little pot of fake flowers was still standing behind Sundance as if in defiance of the fire.
People of all ages gathered to talk this through and see the smoke. We all probably went home smelling like it too.
Wells Fargo was damaged as well.
The first evidence that something was amiss at First Lutheran.
A closer view. But they’re coming back tomorrow.
Being a Public Safety-Public Works hybrid, I remain amazed at how quickly my cohorts can mobilize and organize at times like these.
Still working hard 38 hours after the place exploded. We literally have some of the best first responders on Planet Earth here.
Good job. Often passed by without a second thought, we are reminded of how important our fire hydrants are at times like these. Some have stood as sentinels for decades.
It’s just not something you see every day. Soon after, a couple of Bothell firefighters came walking up the street and we all gave them a hearty round of applause. I wish we could have done the same for the Public Works crews inside their sweepers and Vactors.
It’s therapeutic to meet people and compare notes. You can tell who the engineers are.
Per my education I instinctively listen for those who seem to know too much about the particulars. We don’t know that this was arson, but some arsonists like to return to the scene to gloat over their work or brag about their knowledge. There are different motivations for arson and various types of arsonists, but a small subset experience a high similar to sex from setting fires. I considered those deviants, the thrill seeker type, the revenge seekers, the wannabe heroes, and the profiteering types after being here.
I realized later I was in behavioral profiling mode, noting who was where and how they were feeling. All seemed like concerned locals or business owners. No one stood out.
One man pointed out that besides the obvious damage to Wells Fargo, the ATM had bubbled.
The remaining highest point of the Kozy Corner. Two women told me how they’d just moved their bridal store business out of the upstairs and some friends moved into that space.
It was surreal to see only the O in the open sign left and hanging down in front of a dangling TV.
Returning to the antiques store, which did have to be aired out, there was no trace of smoke inside. It was strangely normal compared to the carnage just outside.
The first booth I walked into had this Fire! Fire! book front and center. There’s some irony. The proprietor confirmed that the book was coincidentally in that spot before the fire started.
Now this is appropriate. How firefighters protect people and property.
These “open for business” banners were everywhere. Some businesses stayed open late because of the people roaming downtown to see the fire. I strongly suspect that Larry and Susie Ormbrek of Sign Up, Sign Co. are behind the speedy production and distribution of these banners.
Bothell is a well-loved place with a lot of supporters. Mills Music, by the way, survived. The clothing store space, Banner Bank, and another building adjacent to the Kozy Corner are said to have water damage even though they look okay from the outside. A wall of the Kozy Corner is tilted towards the clothing store as well.
It is truly amazing how much of Main Street was saved. Two or three blocks could have been lost had it not been for some epic teamwork. The damage is stunning as well, but it could have been exponentially worse. The fact that it was contained as well as it was is a testament to the training and caliber of our local fire departments.
Please patronize local businesses and keep an eye on the Bothell Chamber of Commerce website for fundraisers and ways to support the community. They have this posted already:
Day of Support for Bothell’s Kozy Corner Cafe and Zulu’s Board Game Café
Beardslee Public House and Wildwood Spirits Co. would like to announce
a Kozy Corner Café and Zulu’s Board Game Café Day of Support July 25 & 27.
All profits from Beardslee Public House on Monday, July 25 and all profits from
Wildwood Spirits Co. on Wednesday, July 27 will be given to the owners of the
Kozy Corner Café and Zulu’s Board Game Café to help them rebuild.
Twitter has continual updates and some jarring video.
There is a GoFundMe page for the Kozy Corner, whose staff is now unemployed.
Bothell has a long road back to normal but they’ll stay afloat. They always do, as a community and city, as this mural suggests. Whether all of the 20 or so businesses impacted by this fire do remains to be seen.
Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end. -Scott Adams
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