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City investigating allegation Everett fire chief was intoxicated at fatal New Year’s Eve fire; chief denies accusation

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EVERETT, Wash. –The city of Everett confirmed Monday that the city’s Human Resources Department is investigating an allegation that Fire Chief Murray Gordon was intoxicated that the scene of the Bluffs apartment fire on New Year’s Eve. One person died in the fire.

Meghan Pembroke, a spokeswoman for the city of Everett , said the city received an allegation from an Everett Fire Department employee that Gordon “had alcohol on his breath and was impaired at the scene of the Bluffs fire on Dec. 31.”

She said a third party has been hired to conduct the fact-finding in the case, and that Gordon has not been placed on leave.

The city released this statement from Gordon:

“I was not impaired the night of the Bluffs fire and I am confident that the investigation will confirm that. I understand that the City must take these allegations seriously, and I will fully cooperate with the investigation and any actions that the City takes as a result. I look forward to resolving this and continuing to focus on the good work that the Everett Fire Department does for our community on a daily basis.”

Pembroke said the city’s statement added, “As is typical for large fires, Chief Gordon’s role at the New Year’s Eve fire at the Bluffs apartment complex was to help pull in additional resources and allow the battalion chiefs to focus on operations. Upon arriving on scene, Chief Gordon requested assistance from the Red Cross in setting up the emergency shelter for displaced residents. He also asked Everett Transit to provide two buses for temporary shelter for displaced residents and first responders, and asked Public Works staff for assistance in increasing water pressure at the scene and providing sand to combat the icy conditions. He also worked with the police department to secure the scene and keep residents away from the danger zone.

“Chief Gordon assumed command of the incident at approximately 9 p.m. to allow the battalion chiefs to focus on operations and the work of suppressing the fire. By 9:30 p.m. the fire was more under control and the battalion chief again assumed command of the overall incident. Chief Gordon at that point volunteered to purchase and distribute food for the firefighters and displaced residents, which he frequently does at fires.”

EARLIER STORY

 

One person died in the fire and 15 people were transported to area hospitals, including a 57-year old woman in critical condition, and three others in serious condition, the Everett Fire Department reported.

Fire crews responded to a reported mattress fire at around 7:10 p.m at the Bluffs at Evergreen apartment complex.

Arriving firefighters spotted smoke coming from the building and within minutes of fighting the fire, crews called for a second alarm and then a third alarm.

“The building was not equipped  with a fire sprinkler system, and the fire was able to travel into the attic and spread quickly through the building,” said Assistant Fire Marshal Eric Hicks.

Firefighters and emergency personnel treated 15 people, ages 5 to 60 years old, for injuries, including smoke inhalation, burns and injuries from being dropped out of upper-story windows, the fire department reported.

At least 100 people have been displaced by the fire.  The American Red Cross has  provided assistance and there is an emergency shelter at a nearby church.

Seven of the building’s 30 units were affected by the fire, and the remaining 23 units were damaged by smoke and water.  Crews are working  through the night into Friday morning to fully extinguish the fire.