At 2:30 a.m. on March 20, 1970, an arsonist sets a fire that sweeps up two stairways of the wooden five-story 60-room Ozark Hotel at Westlake Avenue and Lenora Street in Seattle. Fourteen men and six women die and 10 others are hospitalized with serious injuries.
No arrests were made in this case. This fire spurred the City Council to enact stringent new fire codes, which forces hotel and apartment owners to add sprinklers and fire doors, and abide by other fire codes or be forced to close.
Enforcement of these codes led to the conversion or abandonment of scores of single-room-occupancy (SRO) hotels in downtown Seattle. The loss of this low-income housing, combined with the "gentrification" of Pioneer Square and Pike Place Market and later economic and social policies under President Reagan, helped to create in Seattle a permanent homeless population by the mid-1980s.
Don Duncan, Washington: The First One Hundred Years: 1889-1989 (Seattle: The Seattle Times, 1989), 108.
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