The scene in Maynard Alley on Dec. 8 • Courtesy

A person was resuscitated from an overdose after the Fire Department responded to a fire in Maynard Alley by the Louisa Hotel building on December 8, 2023.

Joseph Shoji Lachman had finished teaching a class at Mother Yoga studio in the Louisa building after 7 p.m. when he saw an orange ball of fire reflected in the glass front of the building. It came from a box on fire in Maynard Alley, where four people were gathered. Lachman believes one or more people in the alley started the fire to keep warm.

The fire triggered the Louisa building’s outdoor sprinkler system, which eventually extinguished it. The Fire Department arrived some three minutes later, Lachman said.

“Firefighters that responded to this incident found an activated sprinkler head that extinguished a small rubbish fire. No injuries were reported,” said Seattle Fire Department spokesperson Kaila Lafferty in an email to the International Examiner.

Coincidentally, a Seattle Police officer in the area drove into the alley from the other side, Lachman said. Two of the people in the alley fled, but a person apparently overdosing did not move despite the fire and smoke.

Fire Department responders rushed to the person overdosing, and administered CPR and Narcan, successfully resuscitating the person, according to Tanya Woo, who co-owns the Louisa with her family, and arrived on the scene shortly after the fire broke out.

“I think there was a good chance he would have died without that intervention,” Lachman said. “In a weird way, the circumstances worked out where if we hadn’t had the fire, I don’t know if they would have been able to save his life.”

The Seattle Fire Department • Courtesy

The Louisa was evacuated, including over 80 residents and the occupants of the ground floor businesses, according to Woo. The building remained on fire watch until the internal sprinkler system could be fixed around midnight.

For Woo, a fire so near the Louisa building was upsetting. The Louisa was gutted by a fire in 2013 and more than half the building was destroyed.

Woo noted that CID Community Watch, which patrols the neighborhood on Fridays, sees warming fires outside several times a year. The group gives out warm weather gear: beanies, gloves, emergency blankets and heating packs. These items are in high demand.

“We go out there realizing how dangerous these warming fires are, especially when they’re close to residential buildings,” she said. “People are just trying to stay warm. So how do we help these people and the only thing I can think of is making sure that they have the warm weather supplies and gear they need.”

Lachman said he would like to see more activation of alleys in the CID to be usable community spaces, including for people outdoors. “I would love for there to be safe heating sources to keep folks warm,” he said. “Acknowledging the systemic conditions that are pushing people towards this kind of behavior, and balancing that with, you know, we’d like to have a yoga studio where folks feel safe coming to do their practice.”

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