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Monday, 07 October 2019 18:03

White Center, WA, Body Shop Damaged as Nearby Building Goes up in Flames

Written by Kara Kostanich, KOMO News

Fire investigators are trying to pinpoint what caused a vacant building to go up in flames on Sunday, Oct. 6.


The two-alarm fire happened along 17th Avenue SW in White Center, WA, just before 4 p.m.


“I smelled the smoke but I didn’t see anything,” said Martin Buenez, who is a technician at Gerber Collison, which is located next to the building.


Buenez was working a rare Sunday when the odor concerned him enough to look out the window. He could see two good Samaritans on the sidewalk that made sure he got out.


“They were like, 'Hey, your building is on fire!' So I called 911," said Buenez.


Smoke was coming from the vacant building only inches from the collision shop.


“I didn't know if I was going to need to get all the cars out of the shop or what, but the fire department told me to step aside and that’s when the whole thing went up in flames,” he said. Flames did eventually spread to his shop's roof, and damaged their paint shop.


The vacant building, according to area businesses, has been a hotbed to squatters for years.


“A lot of homeless people go in and out,” said Zaro Sea, an employee at Gerber Collison.


Investigators say they don't know what caused the fire, but the damage to Gerber has employees worried about business.


“No cars, no paycheck, and no paycheck means I can’t pay bills to support my family,” said Sea.


Employees say the collision shop will sort things out on Monday, Oct. 7, but they hope it will be business as usual despite the damage caused by the blaze.


"I guess I've got to look at it on the bright side, now that it’s burned down, maybe they’ll take it down and the homeless will stop showing up,” said Sea.


We thank KOMO News for reprint permission.


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