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Demolishing Dangerous buildings in Seattle faster

A bill that would allow the city to demolish vacant, unsafe or abandoned buildings faster was approved unanimously yesterday by the Seattle City Council.

Seattle residential area

Why it matters?

The city has seen a rise in vacant building fires over the past three years — including one yesterday that killed one person and injured three — and is looking for more effective ways to deal with them.

By the numbers

Over 100 buildings in the city are currently deemed derelict, unsafe or a public nuisance, according to a report by Ann Gorman, a public safety analyst for the city.

  • Over 40 are both vacant and unsafe and have required a visit from the Fire Department at least once, according to the legislation.

  • There were 130 fires — and three deaths — in vacant buildings last year, up from 77 that occurred in 2021.

  • There have been 30 fires in such buildings as of April 15.

What the city's councilmembers are saying?

"Fires in derelict buildings have become a dangerous hazard across the City ... this legislation marks a turning point," Councilmember Tammy Morales said in a written statement after the vote.

State of play

Currently, the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) monitors vacant buildings, doing inspections as a condition of some permits or in response to a complaint.

  • The department can declare a building "unfit for human habitation or other use" and require the owner to secure, repair or demolish the building.

  • The Seattle Fire Department can also issue orders to remove or remedy dangerous conditions and refer a building to SDCI.

How it works?

Under the new bill, the Seattle Fire Department has the authority to require remediation or declare a building a public nuisance and to order abatement if the owner, agent, operator or occupant of a building fails to fix it.

  • Abatement can range from debris removal to demolition.

  • If the city does the abatement, it can bill the owner for costs.

What's next?

The bill heads to the mayor's desk for signature and, because it includes an emergency clause, will take effect immediately once signed.


The Seattle City Council recently passed an emergency ordinance to expedite the process of abating or demolishing dangerous vacant buildings. This move comes in response to an increase in fires in vacant buildings over the past three years, including a recent incident where one person was killed, and three others injured. The new law grants the Seattle Fire Department more authority to address these unsafe structures.

Source: Axios Seattle,,


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