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News / Northwest

Wallingford neighbors search for answers after 4 found dead in fire

By Daisy Zavala Magaña, The Seattle Times
Published: September 5, 2023, 8:07pm

SEATTLE — Two days after an infant, a child and two adults died in a barricaded Wallingford house that went up in flames, details remained sparse and neighbors were seeking answers about the deadly incident.

They are speaking among themselves, turning over the events of the weekend, said Mark Buckley, who lives nearby. The neighborhood is a quiet one — not the kind of place you’d expect such a thing to happen, he said.

“It’s actually horrifying,” Buckley said.

The family had been living for about two years in the four-bedroom rental home at North 48th Street and Whitman Avenue North, where flowers have been placed in the days after the fire.

Neighbors are still unsure what happened around the time an 11-year-old girl escaped the house in the 1000 block of North 48th Street, two blocks south of Woodland Park, and contacted a neighbor. The call to 911 came shortly before 9 a.m. Saturday, reporting someone had died in the home that had become enveloped in flames.

Officer Shawn Weismiller, a Seattle police spokesperson, said the girl was treated for minor injuries and then placed in the care of emergency personnel until she could be reunited with family.

Police found the front door had been barricaded when they tried to force entry into the residence, and fire crews found four people and a dog dead after battling the flames for about 45 minutes.

The King County Medical Examiner’s Office said the names of those killed wouldn’t be released until Tuesday afternoon because of the holiday weekend. Authorities have not released the ages or genders of those killed, or information about how they died. Initial reports indicated someone may have fired a gun around the time of the Saturday morning fire, but police have not confirmed whether there was a shooting or if officers found firearms in the North Seattle home.

Shawna Ruff, who lives up the street from the fire, shook her head Monday and said police hadn’t been back to update residents on what happened. She heard officers speak into a bullhorn two days earlier, telling people to stay in their homes, but she said residents haven’t heard anything since then, which has led to speculation and concern.

Richard Arnold, who also lives nearby, described the couple as friendly, warm and ordinary.

“Whenever anybody would walk by they would stop and talk,” said Arnold, 75.

He recalled the man working a few odd jobs in construction and said he previously had worked as a chef and barber. The woman ran a pet grooming business out of the house.

The couple had invited Arnold to dinner on several occasions in the last couple of months, after they learned his girlfriend was in the hospital. And they had plans to get dinner somewhere in a few weeks.

Rhonda Gardner, who lives across the street from the charred home, said she was two blocks away on a morning walk when she saw black smoke billowing into the sky.

Then: “I saw all these fire engines and ambulances pulling in, and police telling us to get inside our houses.”

As she watched the fire, “It never occurred to us somebody could be in that house.”

Buckley, who moved into his home on North 48th Street in 1995, said the neighborhood is the kind of place where people know one another’s first names. But he didn’t know much about the family that moved in across the street just a few years ago.

“Mostly I just saw them and occasionally I would wave,” Buckley said.

Two children would play outside, often accompanied by their dog, and both parents worked in their yard frequently, Buckley said.

The son had become more gregarious over the summer months and played with the family’s hose and squirt guns. He’d wave or say hello to passersby when he spent time out front.

“The little boy really had a personality,” Buckley said. “He was very sweet and very social.”

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