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48 firefighters respond to blaze
J. Jacob Edel
Mercer Island Reporter
The waterfront home of a Town Center restaurant owner was engulfed with flames early on Friday morning, leaving behind a charred house and the lingering stench of burnt wood along East Mercer Way as Islanders began to celebrate their Fourth of July holiday.
The home belongs to Bennett’s Pure Food Bistro owners Kurt and Leslie Dammeier and their three children. The Dammeiers’ waterfront home is located in the 3800 block of East Mercer Way. Reached on his cell phone while heading back to the Island, Dammeier said that his wife, oldest son, Max, and their dog were in the home at the time when the fire broke out.
“I was actually heading to a baseball tournament in Olympia with my two younger kids,” said Dammeier. “We left just 10 minutes before it happened.”
The fire started around 9:30 a.m., and firefighters continued to extinguish hot spots hours later. Dammeier said his family was OK and that there were friends and family they could stay with. He also said he immediately received several offers of help from fellow Islanders.
“We are fortunate to have a place to go and to have the 40 or so offers to stay. The community of Mercer Island is very welcoming when bad things happen,” Dammeier said.
Nearly 50 firefighters from Mercer Island, Bellevue, Seattle and Woodinville responded to the call. The Mercer Island Marine Patrol also responded, as it could be seen spraying water at the home from the shoreline. Two firefighters suffered minor injuries, but Mercer Island Fire Lieutenant Steve McCoy said they were not from the Island’s department.
According to McCoy, the cause of the fire remained under investigation as of Monday (Reporter deadline). Dammeier said firefighters told him on Friday that the fire probably started in the attic and was electrical-related. He said he was also told that fireworks could have possibly started the blaze. As Heitman stood in the closed road near several fire trucks, he told reporters from local television stations and members of the press that the fire was believed to have started on an upper floor. Most of the entire roof had burned away, he said. Views from the lake showed the entire upper story was destroyed with several windows broken and missing.
Dammeier said the house looked to be at a “substantial or total loss.” The appraised value of the 7,000-square-foot home is $5 million. Several hours after the fire broke out, the smoke continued billowing into the neighborhood as fire crews began dismantling the remaining embers in the home.
“It was so smoky, I couldn’t even see down the street,” said neighbor Greg Dehaan. “I thought it was my house as I drove around the corner. It was not a good feeling. My heart stopped.”
Dehaan’s house, up the road on East Mercer Way, burned down two years ago. He moved into his remodeled home last year, and he was scared when he first saw that there was another fire in the neighborhood.