An Everett firefighter is on paid administrative leave after an accusation that valuable items from a burned down building ended up in his possession, KIRO Radio has learned.
A portion of the McCrossen Building, a two-story brick building located on Hewitt Avenue across from the Comcast Arena, burned down in November 2012. The 119-year-old structure was left so unstable that vendors were never allowed back inside to salvage items that may have survived the blaze.
But a woman who once sold vintage and antique items out of a shop on the first floor of the building says her items began to surface on Craigslist earlier this month.
“It’s just wrong,” said the woman, who estimates she had $20,000 worth of valuables inside The Spare Room Vintage Flea Market when the fire broke out. The items were not insured, she said.
She spoke to KIRO Radio on the condition of anonymity.
The woman called police on March 12 to report the items that she found online, which included a brass cherub lamp valued at $125.00 and a gold nightstand that she hand-painted and priced at $69.00.
Police told the woman to respond to the ad and she and her husband made arrangements to see the items in person. Officers then followed the woman to a residence on Grand Avenue where she went inside posing as an interested buyer.
“I noticed not only the two items that were on Craigslist of mine, but three more items of others vendors at the Spare Room in there and then a lamp that was not for sale but that they were using on their TV stand,” said the woman, who claims the lamp belonged to her father and was worth $75.00.
According to a police report that was obtained by KIRO Radio and filed by the woman Monday afternoon, the man selling the items was an Everett firefighter who helped battle the McCrossen blaze. According to the woman, he claimed to have purchased the valuables from someone on the street for $300.
“He said if I wanted my items back I had to buy them back,” she said. “He goes, ‘my wife has spent hours cleaning mold off these items.'”
She said the man and his wife let her take one of the lamps but refused to return the other items.
Her version of events has not been corroborated by the police department. Attempts to contact the firefighter at his home in Everett Monday afternoon were not successful.
Kate Reardon, a spokesperson for the city of Everett, told KIRO Radio that the firefighter was placed on paid leave this week after a complaint was filed. Reardon stressed that paid leave does not amount to discipline and an investigation into the incident is ongoing.
“At this point in time Everett police are investigating the situation and at this time it’s too early to come to any kind of conclusion,” Reardon said.
Although entry is prohibited, Reardon said police have investigated several reports of people going into the building to loot items.
“We do know that we have had complaints of activity there,” she said. “We have received complaints that people have entered the building on various occasions unauthorized.”
Peter Sikov, the building’s owner, said he is a friend of the firefighter who has been placed on paid leave and does not believe he personally retrieved the items that he posted on Craigslist.
“I know him to be a person of very high character who has absolutely no reason to engage in criminal activity,” Sikov said.
Fire investigators never determined the exact cause of the blaze, which claimed the life of a man who lived on the second floor. The building was supposed to be demolished by March 15, but Sikov missed the deadline.
Sue Ludwig, who owned the The Spare Room Vintage Flea Market, said the combined value of items being sold by vendors in her shop totaled roughly $100,000.