It has been exactly one year since the tragic Maple Crest Apartments fire that took the lives of an entire family including a small child and displaced many members of our Tukwila community from their homes. This is a call that every first responder on scene that day will forever remember as it touched every single one of us. The incident still weighs heavy on all of us and our hearts go out to the family of the victims of this fire and those residents that were displaced by the fire.
There was a very quiet, somber energy in the air as the Tukwila Fire Department battled the blaze throughout the day as it reignited periodically. Their efforts were hampered by the lack of access on the backside of the apartments due to a mudslide and the structure itself which had begun collapsing around them.
On that tragic day one year ago, your Tukwila Firefighters and neighboring fire agency firefighters who assisted them went above and beyond the call of duty. As the fire was being brought under control, we stood by and watched as parts of the building began to collapse. It was becoming clear that there was a significant chance that the majority of the building would collapse and thereby destroy any evidence present for the purpose of a fire investigation and would also greatly impact the removal of the remains of the victims.
It was in that moment of realization that then Tukwila Battalion Chief (B.C.) Ben Hayman rallied all the firefighters back to the command post. B.C. Hayman informed those Tukwila firefighters present that going into the structure to recover the remains of the victims would pose a significant risk to themselves. He stated that the structure was very unstable, slowly collapsing and that there was a chance that they could become trapped and or buried should the structure collapse around them. Those firefighters present who didn’t want to assume such a risk were told that would not have to go in should they choose not to. Not a single Tukwila firefighter stood down on that tragic day. All of them immediately finished suiting up, stabilized the structure as best they could and went in.
We are extremely proud and honored to work with such brave men and women that we know will never back down when they are needed the most. We are very also thankful for the Tukwila community, the Tukwila Food Pantry, the Tukwila Children’s Foundation and other individuals and organizations who immediately banded together to assist first responders, displaced residents, and the community.