Man arrested for reckless burning after Seattle encampment fire by I-5 Mercer ramp

A massive fire broke out at a homeless encampment in Seattle's South Lake Union neighborhood, sending black smoke into the air that could be seen for miles. 

The fire broke out around 5 p.m. on Monday. Seattle police said they arrested a man for investigation of reckless burning. He was booked into the King County Jail shortly after the fire.

Eastbound lanes near Mercer St. and Fairview Ave. were blocked as crews worked on the fire.

No one was injured, according to the Seattle Fire Department. 

Witnesses at the scene reported hearing explosions.

"I just heard this big like pop and I turned to look behind me and this huge big puff of black smoke, and it was yellow and green. By the third or fourth pop, stuff started flying everywhere," said Susan Smith, who lives nearby.

"It was pretty shocking. We were startled when we saw the flames in the sky," neighbor Natalia Pisanksi said. "I just saw the whole alley was gray in flames." 

Neighbors say this isn’t the first fire they’ve seen in the area. Another resident reported there had been at least three fires before this.

FOX 13's David Rose also profiled this encampment in early 2023. At that time, it was clear structures were being built by campers out of makeshift materials. Inside cameras captured what looked like a plywood tiny home and other videos from the exterior of the fence showed a black-tarp structure to the left of the wooden home. That structure may have been the one to burn on Monday. 

Neighbors also say they've complained to the city leaders about the situation before. They hope local leaders now will do something to make this area safer.