'We had to jump over the flames': Woman describes escaping encampment fire near I-5

The Seattle Fire Department (SFD) responded to a fire just off I-5 Saturday morning. It was first thought to be a brush fire but was later determined to have started as an encampment fire that spread.

"That fire then extended to nearby brush," said a SFD spokesperson.

They went on to say there were no injuries reported and that the official cause of the fire remains under investigation.

FOX 13 went back to the site hours after the smoke cleared and spoke to a woman who was living in the encampment when the fire broke out.

"My boyfriend, he woke me up," recalled Nina. "Thank gosh he did because I sleep really soundly. I would’ve been gone with the fire too."

Nina, who we are not identifying by her full name or showing her face, told FOX 13 she'd been living in the encampment for a year. She said she was lucky to be alive and described how the fire started.

"We were using a cooking stove," she said. "The flames grew. They were two feet high on the ground. There was nowhere to step. We had to jump over the flames. We tried to cover it with a blanket."

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Nina said the night before, she and her boyfriend had a conversation about fire danger, especially with high winds in the forecast.

"You don’t think it can happen to you until it does," she said.

Now Nina and her boyfriend are left with nothing but small belongings. Anything of value that was in the encampment was completely destroyed.

FOX 13 asked Nina, who is 21-years-old, what her next step was.

She said, "This might be the perfect opportunity to go and check in with housing, who knows."


1 injured in encampment fire above I-5 in Seattle

Seattle police are investigating what caused a brush fire above the off-ramp of I-5 Friday morning.

She also admitted not wanting to leave her boyfriend.

As she contemplated her next step, outreach volunteers with We Heart Seattle offered assistance, which Nina turned down, for the moment.

"These encampments are ticking time bombs," said We Heart Seattle’s Andrea Suarez. "Today was another example of the dangers we’ve been talking about."

Suarez and other organizations have raised concerns about encampment fire dangers to the city, with little being done.

"This one had propane tanks all around the hillside," said Suarez.

FOX 13’s cameras captured multiple propane tanks along with generators among the debris.

"I’m also worried about Nina," said Suarez. "She’s a young, beautiful 21-year-old and she thinks this life of squalor and living is the best she can do. She needs daily contact and we need to build trust with her. We’re not going to give up on her."

The official cause of the fire remains under investigation, according to SFD.

Even though SFD put out the fire, there’s concern a new one will pop up.

People living in the burnt encampment have secured a new tent along with gasoline. At least one 5-gallon can was brought in to power a generator.