Fatal Chimney Condo fire in Downtown Bellevue ruled an accident

A previous copy of this story mistakenly identified Fire Investigator Brooke Robinson by the incorrect pronoun. The Reporter regrets the error.

The October 2016 fire in Downtown Bellevue’s Chimney Condominiums which killed two and injured two more has officially been ruled an accident.

The blaze started in the early evening on Oct. 24, 2016. Calls to the Bellevue Fire Department came in at approximately 7:30 p.m. The Chimney Condominiums were a three-story complex located near Bellevue Downtown Park on 100th Avenue Northeast.

Several witnesses claim they heard loud booms as the fire became visible from the street.

The fire began in unit 101 and quickly spread throughout that unit and to surrounding ones. Fire investigator Brooke Robinson said it was impossible to tell the exact cause of the fire, but he concluded it was most likely that discarded cannabis smoking materials ignited combustible products in a recycling bin (a butane can, a lighter, clothing and chewing tobacco cans) in unit 101’s spare bedroom.

Robinson also concluded the fire was likely spread to the living room of the unit by the owner’s trying to extinguish the flames with a mattress and then blankets.

The fire damaged 21 units and displaced 40 people. Two people suffered cardiac arrest, two others suffered from burns and smoke inhalation.

Steven Hu, 29, and Hueming Hu, 58, lived in unit 301, above the origin of the fire, and were overcome by the smoke. Crews found the two in the kitchen and resuscitated them. They died the following morning at Harborview Medical Center. The causes of death were determined to be smoke-inhalation related.

According to witness reports and the fire investigation, quickly rising flames and smoke essentially cut off the two exits for unit 301, likely preventing neighbors from providing a warning or aid to the Hu family.

The investigators found that smoke alarms were present in the condominiums, but no fire sprinkler system.

The owner of the unit where the fire started, Christo Fournarakis, suffered burns. He was not charged with any crime. The investigation found that the fire was accidental and that Fournarakis attempted to put out the fire. His apparent remorse for the accident was noted in the report.

Fire Marshal Ken Carlson said the Chimney Condominiums building was an older structure, built in 1974, and that there were similarities between it and other buildings in the neighborhood.

“Bellevue has a lot of old, multifamily buildings,” he said. “There are a lot of similarly-structured buildings around the city.”