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Cause of historic building fire remains a mystery

A large, out of control fire burning in a three-story building in Seattle's International District has forced more than 20 people living nearby to evacuate. (Seattle Fire Dept. via Twitter)

SEATTLE (AP) - The cause of a fire in a century-old International District building is likely to remain a mystery because of structural damage, the Seattle Fire Department said Thursday.

Spokesman Kyle Moore said investigators can't get access to the areas they would need to examine to determine the cause of the dramatic Christmas Eve fire.

None of the eight businesses on the first floor of the burned building will be allowed to reopen until structural engineers say the building is sound.

But city officials do not appear confident that will happen any time soon. Business owners will be allowed back in the building for brief visits to collect things like receipts and insurance policies, Moore said.

Residents in two buildings next door have been allowed back into their homes, but building owners have been ordered to make some changes to allow safe pedestrian access to the area and to block people from going inside the "collapse zone."

No one lives in the burned building and the top two floors have been uninhabitable for years. Businesses closed by the fire include a bakery, restaurant and aquarium.

The building housed Chinese immigrants in its early days. It's also known for the 1983 Wah Mee massacre where 13 people were killed by robbers in a gambling club.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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