House fire causes $150,000 in damage

By Wendy Giroux

A woman jumped out of an upper-story window Thursday afternoon to get away from a fire that killed three pets and damaged much of a home in the 3700 block of 78th Avenue S.E.

The owner of the rental house said that one of the family's cats woke the woman, who was sleeping heavily due to jet lag after just returning from Japan.

``The cat literally attacked her, pawing at her, meowing at her,'' said Kathryn Allahyari, the homeowner. ``The cat finally woke her up and she jumped out of a second story window. She somehow managed to land on bamboo and did not break anything.''

The 21-year-old woman was not seriously injured but was taken by ambulance to Overlake Medical Center in Bellevue to be treated for minor smoke inhalation, Fire Cmdr. Walt Mauldin said.

Firefighters saved one of the family's cats, named ``Lulu,'' but found the cat that saved the woman dead inside. From the soot under its nostrils, Lulu appeared to have breathed some smoke, but seemed to be weathering the emergency fairly well. Two dogs were later found dead inside the home, Mauldin said.

The Caccam family, which rents the home, has lived on the Island for 25 years, Allahyari said. All three children were born here and graduated from Mercer Island High School; the woman who was inside at the time of the fire is the family's youngest daughter.

A passerby called to report the fire at about 1 p.m., but mistakenly said 79th avenue instead of 78th, so firefighters initially responded one block over.

``When firefighters arrived here, they saw smoke and flames coming from the house and it seemed to be coming mostly from upstairs,'' Mauldin said.

Firefighters entered through the front door but were faced with a significant amount of heat and immediately saw that the fire was primarily downstairs, so they went around the house and began attacking the flames through a downstairs door.

Teams of firefighters could be seen carrying what appeared to be burning curtains out of the home and extinguishing them on the front lawn and driveway. Inside, they used thermal imaging equipment to check for hot spots and tore down Sheetrock to check for flames inside the walls, Mauldin said.

The fire appears to have started downstairs and firefighters believe it likely moved upstairs quickly because of a wide, open stairway. Investigators believe that the cause was electrical and not suspicious; loss is estimated at $150,000.

The upper floor sustained primarily smoke and heat damage, such as broken windows and melted blinds, while the lower floor was heavily damaged by flames, smoke and water, Mauldin said. ``There's quite extensive damage throughout the house on both levels,'' he said.

Bellevue firefighters also responded to assist, with an engine company, a truck company and an aid unit. The fire was extinguished in 27 minutes.

How to help

The family had no renter's insurance, said their landlady, Kathryn Allahyari, so she started a fund to help them purchase new clothing and possessions. Donations can be made to the Caccam Family Relief Fund at any U.S. Bank. She suggested that as an alternate means of support, Islanders may want to patronize Tsukushinbo, a sushi restaurant that the family runs in downtown Seattle at 515 S. Main St.

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