‘It was chaotic:’ Ballard bodega burns in suspected gas explosion

May 2, 2024, 4:50 PM | Updated: 6:45 pm

A beloved Ballard market was damaged in a fire. (Photo: Sam Campbell, KIRO Newsradio)...

A beloved Ballard market was damaged in a fire. (Photo: Sam Campbell, KIRO Newsradio)

(Photo: Sam Campbell, KIRO Newsradio)

A beloved café and deli in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood is in shambles after an explosion Thursday morning.

Firefighters responded to Take 5 Urban Market at 8th Avenue Northwest and 70th Street around 7:15 a.m. as neighbors reported hearing an explosion and feeling a shockwave. Some reported hearing the bang as far away as the Ship Canal Bridge, while neighbors across the street said the explosion shook their entire house.

Crowds of neighbors gathered to watch the ensuing response as firefighters swarmed the Ballard intersection, blocking traffic with several fire engines and hauling hoses into the building. The flames were put out quickly, and crews moved inside to examine the damage.

“It was chaotic, there were people taking things out, trying to calm whatever was on fire down,” Paul Morris, who rushed over after hearing the explosion, said. “It was pretty much – recovering as much as possible.”

After extinguishing the flames, a firefighter with the Seattle Fire Department told KIRO Newsradio that investigators found evidence the fire started with a natural gas leak. He said arson is not suspected, and no one was inside at the time.

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The market was left with severe damage, its front window completely shattered, the roof significantly scorched and an unknown amount of furniture and merchandise destroyed. But firefighters told the businesses’ owners — a husband and wife from Shoreline who arrived at the scene — it may be possible to fix the building with extensive repairs.

Owners of Ballard market arrive to beloved shop in flames

Owners Bryan Vietmeier and Rebecca Rouleau told KIRO Newsradio friends living near the market texted them photos of the fire and rushed to their side when they got to the intersection and saw their shop in flames.

“All the windows were blown out, and anything that could be caught on fire in there caught on fire from the explosion,” Rouleau said. “They say that it did not go into the other units and that it was contained.”

Numerous neighbors lamented the destruction, telling KIRO Newsradio the market is a neighborhood favorite for coffee and sandwiches. Vietmeier said the shop has been open for 17 years, with ownership passing along in his family, coming under his and Rouleau’s management just four months ago.

“We can rebuild, we can work with that kind of situation because it didn’t go into the roof and it didn’t go into the neighboring areas,” Rouleau said. “It’s pretty scary, but apparently, we can rebuild.”

The gas exploded before the business’ stated opening time, but had circumstances been slightly different, one of the café’s employees could have been at work.

Other news: 4 Snoqualmie businesses destroyed in fire, city asks for donations

“The explosion was at a time that usually our morning person comes in,” she said. “It could have been a lot worse.”

Vietmeier said he is in shock, but he’s determined to see it back open.

“I’m coming back,” he said. “We’re a big part of this neighborhood, and this neighborhood’s a big part of us.”

“We’re going to keep doing this,” he added. “This was our plan. This was our future, the rest of our lives, you know. Our kid’s life. This was going to fund his college. So hopefully, we can figure out how to move forward.”

You can read more of Sam Campbell’s stories here. Follow Sam Campbell on X, formerly known as Twitter, or email him here.

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‘It was chaotic:’ Ballard bodega burns in suspected gas explosion