On October 14, 2003, at 0724 hours, firefighters at Seattle Fire Department, Station 10 saw a large black column of smoke rising above the skyline of downtown Seattle. At the same time, calls began arriving at the Fire Alarm Center.
A fire was reported on the roof of the 15-story former Seattle Municipal Building at 600 4 Avenue. A first alarm assignment was sent consisting of 5 engines, 2 ladder trucks and 9 other chief and support units. A 2-11 and 3-11 plus a Rapid Intervention Group were quickly added due to the first reports of the large volumes of smoke and fire that were visible. This brought the number of responding units to 37, including 14 engines and 7 ladder companies.
The old City Hall, which is in the process of being demolished, did not have working elevators, so the first arriving crews accessed the 13th floor via a construction elevator on the exterior of the building. A group of 3 engine companies, a ladder company and an aid car made access through a scuttle hatch in the stairwell to the roof of the building. Water was on the fire 10 minutes after the dispatch time and a tapped fire was called 19 minutes into the incident.
According to the fire department PIO, Helen Fitzpatrick, the cause of the fire was determined to be accidental. Workers were cutting a bolt, and sparks dropped down on some plastic material. This ignited a nearby wooden structure that was on top of the main roof level. There was zero dollar loss since the building was being demolished.
Due to the fast actions by the crews on scene, most units were placed in service within a half hour, and the last units finished mopping up and cleared the scene by 0921.
Since this incident, a second fire was reported at this building. On November 6th, a piece of construction equipment sparked a fire on the 11th floor. This incident was quickly extinguished and contained to the 11th floor.