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CID restaurant playing with fire? – public safety issues

Ruth Bayan
Northwest Asia Weekly

The Seattle Fire Department responds to the September 1st fire at 707 S King St. (Photo by Assunta Ng)

The building that houses the Harbour City restaurant caught fire on Sept. 1, causing about $125,000 in damage and was ruled an “accidental” — caused by a grease fire in the kitchen. No one was injured.

But a community member with extensive knowledge of the buildings and restaurants in Seattle’s Chinatown International District (CID) said it could be worse.

“Unless someone dies, you’re going to have multiple fires like this, and nobody cares,” he told Northwest Asia Weekly.

“Chow,” a community member who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of prosecution, said the fire caused such a huge repercussion because he believed the Seattle Fire Department (SFD) believed the entire building was at risk of a fire. Add fuel to the fire. This is a whole CID problem.

Take Guangzhou Lane as an example, Zhou said.

“Look at the fume hood that came off the building…you’ll see smears of oil. Where do you think that’s coming from? When it got hot, it came from inside the ducts and it melted and started dripping off the access panels. …but no one wants to fix that.”

Perry Lee is not surprised. Retired health and environmental investigators in King County often tell restaurateurs to clean their ventilation systems.

“There is always a lot of grease buildup into the ventilation system, especially in many Chinese restaurants that do frying and grilling and many teriyaki Japanese restaurants.”

Lee added: “When I went to check, I saw oil stains hanging from the hood…a lot of these old places…they don’t want to put money back into the business…they don’t want to spend it.”

public safety

The Seattle Fire Department responds to a fire at 707 S King St on September 1 (Photo by Assunta Ng)

The SFD told Northwest Asia Weekly that the fire in Harbour City also spread through the plumbing system, causing minor damage to the roof.

In total, SFD dispatched three ladder trucks, six engines, two rescue vehicles, a medical team and a medical service personnel. There are various other command and support units.

“At the Seattle Fire Department, we have a layered response system, which means we’ll field enough units to handle detailed incidents reported through 911, and then scale down if necessary,” said Kristin Tinsley, SFD senior communications manager. “In this incident, staff observed smoke coming from the roof upon arrival, so all units were on site for a period of time to mitigate the impact of the incident before we began to demobilize resources. Medical personnel remained on site to Respond to situations that may cause harm to community members and firefighters.”

Zhou said public safety is more than “bad guys robbing and beating people.” Fire safety is also a public safety issue.

He points to a restaurant’s plumbing system that runs along one of CID’s main streets.

“A few years ago, their employees had to go outside because there was zero air flow…it was completely stuffed with grease and you couldn’t get any air to circulate,” Chow said. “So what they did, they replaced it. Instead of cleaning it monthly, they replaced it.”

Chow suggested to owners that they should put access panels in the ductwork every 10 feet so they could clean it, and he was told to take care of himself.

“They’re basically creating the same problem, and people don’t care,” Zhou said.

The health department will tell restaurant owners that they need to clean their ventilation systems at least once a month, Lee said.

Not a major violation

“Cleaning is the least important thing for the King County Health Department,” Lee told Northwest Asia Weekly.

Cleaning the grease on the hood, or rather, not cleaning it, is not a major violation, Lee said.

“This is a two-point violation. This is not a serious violation.”

Dirty walls and dirty floors won’t make you sick, Lee said.

Serious or “red” violations are temperature (keeping food hot or cold) and hand washing.


According to SFD, the total damage from the Harbour City fire is estimated at $125,000.

The ductwork next to the building spans 50 to 80 feet, and cleaning just 10 feet of ductwork can cost at least $6,000, Chow said.

“I’ve told (various public bodies) … everyone understands my concerns … and no one wants to comment on it because it basically means hollowing out every restaurant in Chinatown. wallet.”

Racism backlash?

“What would happen if all the restaurants (CIDs) here were told ‘you need to do this?’ All of a sudden, the media would grab it and people would claim racism,” Zhou said. “Nobody wants to be called a racist.”

Zhou noted that a local TV station in the early 1990s exposed King County’s dirtiest restaurants, some in Chinatown.

“Remember? What happened?” Zhou said: “Everyone came to that station…so they pulled it off. You can’t find it on the internet anymore, you can’t find that story because there is no People want to be called racists.”

The Harbour City restaurant has been closed due to fire and the kitchen is being renovated.

The restaurant will reopen next week.

Ruth can be reached by Editor

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