Large fire rips through historic Seattle building

SEATTLE (AP) - A large, out of control fire burning in a three-story building in Seattle's International District has forced more than 20 people living nearby to evacuate, fire officials said Tuesday night.

The fire began around 4 p.m. and sent plumes of smoke over downtown Seattle and Interstate 5. Aerial news footage showed flames shooting out of the building's roof.

The top two floors have been vacant, but the bottom floor houses businesses whose staff and customers were evacuated, officials said.

Seattle Fire Department spokesman Kyle Moore said there were no reports of injuries but that there was a "real potential" for collapse due to the building's age.

Fire crews have had a near-constant stream of water on the building, which makes the already unstable structure even weaker.

"There's the concern that the longer we put water on this building that the walls may collapse out," said Fire Chief Gregory Dean

Moore said the fire is not spreading, but heavy smoke and the department's need to cut power prompted the precautionary evacuation of two buildings across an alleyway.

The American Red Cross was called to assist at least 22 displaced residents, who Moore said might be able to return Christmas Day. He expected the number of people needing shelter overnight would grow.

An estimated 90 firefighters were battling the blaze. They haven't entered the building because it's on the department's "dangerous building list," Moore said. Its narrow access points pose dangers to firefighters.

It's too early to know the fire's cause, he said.

He said the building was the site of the 1983 Wah Mee massacre, in which 13 people were killed in a robbery at the Wah Mee gambling club.