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Investigators still trying to determine cause of fatal fire

Investigators still trying to determine cause of fatal fire (PHOTO: KOMO News){p}{/p}
Investigators still trying to determine cause of fatal fire (PHOTO: KOMO News)

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Seattle firefighters are still trying to find what started a deadly house fire in south Seattle Monday morning.

Inside the home investigators said they found the bodies of two men and a marijuana grow operation.

It happened in the 9200 block of Spear Place S. in Rainier Beach.

Firefighters want to know if the fire could be connected to the grow-op.

Right now the fire's cause has been ruled undetermined, but a fire department spokesman said they'll keep investigating and hope to have a cause in a couple of days.

"Unfortunately there are two fatalities at this time, the fire is under investigation," said Seattle Fire's Acting Public Information Officer Hilton Almond.

At 5:45am, neighbors woke to the popping of shattering windows and fire sirens.

Daylight revealed just how grim the New Year's Eve fire was.

"I just can't believe it — dead from a fire in the house," said neighbor Janet Hisayasu, still in disbelief.

"That's bad, that's really bad, " said Daniel, he lives a few houses down the hill from the fire scene.

"It was like a regular house," said Hisayasu, who lives directly across from the charred home.

Inside the brick home Seattle firefighters said they found something that came as a surprise to neighbors — a marijuana grow operation.

"It's a shock when I heard from them there was some kind of a marijuana grow operation, it's just I didn't expect that kind," said Yoseph Teklemariam.

A battalion chief said it looks as if the fire may have started on the ground floor.

KOMO News crews counted a couple dozen charred plants — pots and blacked stems remained.

He said the fire likely burned up into the first floor, where firefighters found one body — the other on the stairwell between the floors.

The chief thinks the fire possibly burned a hole in the first floor, a fire fighter fell partially through it, but wasn't seriously hurt.

"I never suspected anything," said Teklemariam.

No one seems to know the men who died.

Neighbors said they kept to themselves and the blinds were always drawn and the place was typically quiet.

It's a rental home, the property owner Yao Chien told KOMO. He only has one renter — a man, he described as a good tenant who paid his rent every month.

He thinks the other man was a guest.

"Yeah really bad, really, really bad," said Yao Vang, Chien's brother who came to the property to help see the building get safely boarded up.

Yao and his brother said they had no idea marijuana was inside.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said their department permits an approved homeowner to grow up to 15 plants for medical reasons, but because of privacy laws the state can't reveal any information about such grow operations, insisting legally they can't confirm or deny whether the home's operation is sanctioned.

Same goes for the Washington Liquor and Cannibas Board, which said homeowners can get approval to run a grow operation co-op for medical reason out of their homes with up to 60 plants for up to 4 people, plus meet certain state requirements, but a spokesman there adds the information is also not privy to the state's public records law.

After 50 years of living in this Rainier Beach neighborhood, Hisayasu said this is the most tragic day she can remember.

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"It's a nice neighborhood, I’ve never been fearful," she said. "Many neighbors have been here as long as I have."

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