Video: Thousands pay respects to victims of last Saturday’s fatal fire in Seattle

Above: Mourners at Friday’s public memorial service react
during an emotional visual tribute to the Seattle fire victims.

Updated: Saturday, June 19, 2010
By Marc Ramirez
Seattle Times staff reporter

One by one, the lives lost to last weekend’s fire in Fremont were celebrated on screen, a series of snapshots taken in happier times.

The boy who dreamed of playing point guard for the Boston Celtics. The siblings who adored their older brother. The girl who liked to jump rope. And the young woman who could win any argument she set her mind to.

The emotional slide show capped Friday’s public memorial to those five family members at Seattle Center’s KeyArena. The multicultural crowd, estimated at 3,500, largely reflected an East African population united in grief over the loss of so many young lives.

“Your sorrow is our sorrow,” said Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn. “Your grief is Seattle’s grief. We walk with you in your grief because we are — and will be — one community.”

Killed last Saturday morning in the swift-moving fire at Helen Gebregiorgis’ Fremont apartment were three of her children — Joseph Gebregiorgis, 13, Nisreen Shamam, 6, and Yaseen Shamam, 5; her sister, Eyerusalem Gebregiorgis, 22; and a niece, 7-year-old Nyella Smith, daughter of a third sister, Yordanos Gebregiorgis.

Watch Video: Memorial service for Fremont fire victims

Nisreen Shamam (left), Yaseen Shamam (C) and Joseph Gebregiorgis.
They were killed in last weekend’s apartment fire in Seattle.


Click Here to Donate to Seattle’s Fremont Apartment Fire Victims Fund – Donate Online Now
Donations to help family members affected by last Saturday’s blaze can be sent to the Seattle Children’s Fire Fund at any Bank of America branch. Donations also are being accepted at the Red Door tavern in Fremont. There will be a booth at this weekend’s Fremont Fair at North 35th Street and Evanston Avenue North to accept cash donations or gift cards from grocery or department stores. There also will be paper and envelopes available to write condolence notes to the family. Neighbor Allecia Clemons, a Fremont folk singer, is trying to organize a benefit concert for later in the summer. She can be reached at

Watch Video: Ethiopian community mourns 5 dead in Seattle fire

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Seattle (Tadias) – As investigators continue to look into the cause of this pasts weekend’s apartment fire in Seattle that killed an Ethiopian family, including four children, the city’s fire chief described the frantic seconds after the blaze erupted Saturday morning in Helen Gebregiorgis’ two-story home in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood.

Seattle Fire Chief Gregory Dean told the media Sunday that the city’s deadliest fire in decades started in the living quarters of Helen Gebregiorgis’ three-bedroom, two-story apartment and spread to the second floor. He said the mother had gone upstairs to tell the others about the fire, grabbed her 5-year-old niece, Samarah Smith, and left the building, thinking the others were behind her. “She believed that the rest were following her and when she got outside they were not,” Dean said during a news conference at Fire Department headquarters in Pioneer Square. “We did find the four children and the aunt in the second floor bathroom, huddled together.”

Gebregiorgis, 31, lost her sons, 13-year-old Joseph Gebregiorgis and 5-year-old Yaseen Shamam, and her 6-year-old daughter, Nisreen Shamam, in the fire in the city’s Fremont neighborhood, the children’s grieving uncle, Daniel Gebregiorgis, told The Seattle Times. Also killed were Helen’s 22-year-old sister, Eyerusalem Gebregiorgis, and 7-year-old niece, Nyella Smith.

Video: Seattle Fire Chief Gregory Dean reacts to an apartment fire that killed an Ethiopian family

The fire was reported just after 10 a.m. Saturday morning.

According to Seattle’s King5 News, the first emergency vehicle to arrive at the burning apartment building had a problem with a pump that prevented it from spraying water on the fire, but a second unit arrived two minutes later and was able to fight the fire.

“They needed to be able to control what was in front of them before they could go up the stairs,” the Chief said. “There was definitely a delay in firefighters being able to get there. I think in looking at the pictures and what we saw and listening to comments, there was a tremendous amount of fire and smoke prior to the fire department’s arrival, which, again, makes it pretty hard to sustain life in that type of heated environment,” he said.

Dean said the truck with the mechanical problem arrived at 10:09 a.m., and a second truck about two minutes later, and a third at 10:12 a.m.

According to the fire chief, the department prepares for problems because they happen on a regular basis and this weekend’s particular problem would be investigated.

“We do what we call redundancy back-up to make sure that if something happens, we’re prepared for that type of thing,” he said. “In this case something did happen. The second unit came in, they did what they were supposed to do and we continued to fight the fire.”

“Our firefighters are beating themselves up, you know ‘could I have done more,’” the chief said. “Our hearts go out to the ones that lost their loved ones and we recognize there’s an impact on the community, recognize there’s an impact on our firefighters. We will be doing a follow-up with the community.”

Fatal fire may have started in mattress (Seattle Times)

30 Responses to “Video: Thousands pay respects to victims of last Saturday’s fatal fire in Seattle”

  1. 1 MIMI Jun 13th, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    What a tragic day for the family. Very sad news. My heart goes out the victims who perished in this fire and to the shocked and distraught Ethiopian community in Seattle. We mourn with you!

  2. 2 Hamelmal Shiferaw Jun 13th, 2010 at 9:23 pm


  3. 3 rafel demeke Jun 13th, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    sorry to hear this.

  4. 4 Alula Jun 14th, 2010 at 12:11 am

    Stark reminder to share our love with our family all the time for we don’t know what happens from one minute to another.

    My deepest condolences to the mother who lost these beautiful children and her 22 years old sister and to the rest of her extended family. This is a terrible heartache to those who lost their loved ones. My heart and prayers go out to all.

  5. 5 Anisa Adem Jun 14th, 2010 at 12:13 am

    This is very sad. What a tragedy.

  6. 6 Osman Jun 14th, 2010 at 1:09 am

    What a heartbreaking event. I cannot imagine the pain and feeling of losing children in such tragic way or any other way. My deepest condolence goes to the mother of those beautiful kids. I can sense from reading some of the thousand comments left on various websites how shocking this tragedy to Ethiopian communities. Many Ethiopian and friends of Ethiopians are in shock about this tragic incident. Our prayers and thoughts are with her and her family. If there is any help line, please set the link, so we can contribute whatever we can.

  7. 7 Saba Jun 14th, 2010 at 6:46 am


  8. 8 Seble Jun 14th, 2010 at 7:58 am

    Oh my god. This is heart breaking. What can I do to help?

  9. 9 Sharief Jun 14th, 2010 at 8:22 am

    Lets all pray for the fathers and mothers of these families.. please help by praying for them.

  10. 10 Solomon Jun 14th, 2010 at 9:05 am

    My heart goes out to the family, and may the Lord gives you strength and comfort in this time of great sorrow.

  11. 11 kenaw Tarekeng Jun 14th, 2010 at 11:36 am

    What can I say??? Sad to see innocent kids die this way. I would not know what to say to the family, please GOD help them.

  12. 12 endalc Jun 14th, 2010 at 11:46 am

    My condolences to the family.

  13. 13 meresu Jun 14th, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    what a tragic day for the family very sad news. lord have mercy.

  14. 14 mariam Jun 14th, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    I’m so sorry this happened. I can’t even imagine how it would feel not to see my kids again. God loves u and he will make u understand why this happened. Give it time. God be with you.

  15. 15 Elizabeth Rey Jun 14th, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    It is really unfortunate what happened to these children and their very young 22 years old aunt. Had the first fire truck that arrived at the scene at 10:09 a.m. worked properly, there is a high probability today the story could have been much different. Three full minutes (an eternity in fast-moving fire) passed before the second truck arrived at 10:12 a.m. This episode is also very tragic and sad for the fire fighters who lost these beautiful kids on their watch, all because of a damn fire truck pump that failed to spray water. Hope the Seattle Fire Department will examine and re-examine this incident for lessons learned so that it will never happen again.

    Concerned citizen

  16. 16 Workneh Jun 14th, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    I wonder what started the fire? Indeed very sad.

    Goldie, Chicago.

  17. 17 Kat H. Jun 14th, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    I KNEW JOEY, I WENT TO SCHOOL WITH HIM. Joey i miss you sooo much, i wish you didn’t have to go, our whole school is missing you, i wish this was a dream. i miss you buddy. Rest in peace.

  18. 18 Zufan Jun 15th, 2010 at 1:03 am

    They are angles and they have gone home to heaven. Mom, they will comfort you in their own way. Time will heal everything. Life never deals us a card we can’t play. God never gives us what we can’t handle. Even this shall pass. They are in good place…smiling and playing in heaven. I just lit five candles for them. And a moment of silence. Everything has reason.

  19. 19 Tsega Jun 15th, 2010 at 1:21 am

    May God comfort and grace from above keep the mother’s heart strong.

  20. 20 Girmay Berhe Jun 15th, 2010 at 7:03 am

    Our condolonces to the Family!! Our loved ones are always in our heart after passing away. May God comfort you !! You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers. Girmay Berhe (Norway)

  21. 21 Damay Jun 15th, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    I am really sooooooo sorry. May God give strength to the rest of the family and may their souls rest in peace.

  22. 22 Tefferi Jun 15th, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    what a tragedy . god bless their soul.

  23. 23 Tsege and Binyam from Georgia Jun 15th, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    We are so sorry to hear this; may their soul rest in peace and our condolence to their families.

  24. 24 Hana Woldeleul Jun 15th, 2010 at 10:27 pm

    Dear Helen Gebregiorgis,

    Your loss is unbearable for any mother under any circumstance, but sudden accidents like this makes it even harder. I understand because I have lost two in a car accident myself. But you also now have angles in heaven. Your children Joseph Gebregiorgis, Yaseen Shamam, Nisreen Shamam, your niece Nyella Smith and your sister Eyerusalem Gebregiorgis are in my thoughts and prayers.

  25. 25 Tierra Jun 15th, 2010 at 10:36 pm

    i knew joseph and i havent slept for 2 days knowing he is gone. i have cried every night i’m waiting for some one to pop out and yell its all a cruel joke but knowing no one is going to do that i cnt bare to sleep this is all i think about i cnt even imagine what his mom is going through. Joseph Gebregiorgis u will be missed and you are gone but not forgotten.

  26. 26 Annette Martin Jun 17th, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    Dear mothers of these beautiful children, I mourn and pray with you – it is truly losing a part of your own body. Nothing will help but that God will do some miracle for you – they will not come back, but someday you will go to them – oh, your arms were so full and now they are empty…Lord have mercy, Christ, our only hope, have mercy on us…

  27. 27 helu Jun 18th, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    Oh My God . One of the most tragic events in my life. I am so sorry specially for the mother who has lost her children. Let God help you. And then I am sorry for the children because we will never have the chance to see where all these beautiful children will reach. Let God give the blessing to all the family and may the departed rest in peace.

  28. 28 Mina Jun 20th, 2010 at 12:26 am

    I am so sorry. May god given strength the rest of the family. PLS GOD HELP THEM.

  29. 29 danay weldegebreal Jun 21st, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    I am soooooo sorry.we are soooo sad about what happened. May god always be with you! May their souls rest in peace. Your children are in heaven now and god will keep them safe. May god bless all of you and may god help you go thorough this trying times! My mom says: “senat yestachu“. Their is nothing i can do to help but pray for all of you.



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