A word of caution during these long, hot, dry days of summer: Everything that was once cool in T-Town burned down.
The Tacoma Hotel. The Music Box Theater. The Top of the Ocean restaurant. The Baker Dock near Old Town. The Point Defiance Pagoda. The Point Defiance boathouse, like, three times.
But when it comes to fires, as with most events in Puget Sound history, we simply can’t compete with our neighbors to the north.
Once upon a time, most of Seattle burned down. And we, forever fated to be the Second Banana of Washington, could only marvel while the First Banana glowed all night like a giant Bananas Foster Flambé.
The Great Seattle Fire of 1889 started in a woodworking shop on First Avenue and quickly leaped from building to building, fueled by booze from the saloons and liquor stores.
By the time the flames were doused after more than 12 hours, they had destroyed 120 acres, countless buildings, mills and wharves, and 1 million rats. (Pity the guy who had to count the rats.)
Of course an inferno on that scale could never happen again, right? Not with modern firefighting equipment, water-conveyance systems and flame-resistant building materials, right?
Wrong and wrong again, says the National Weather Service.
Five-alarm forecast: The weather gurus issued a warning last week invoking the worst fire in Seattle history and urging people to take precautions during this year’s record-setting Heatpocalypse.
The earnest tone of the memo was magnified by the federal agency’s usual all-capital-letter script. Some excerpts:
“THE GREAT SEATTLE FIRE OCCURRED ON JUNE 6TH 1889...BURNING 25 BLOCKS OF DOWNTOWN SEATTLE NEAR THE WATERFRONT. WEATHER CONDITIONS THAT SPRING WERE QUITE SIMILAR TO THOSE THIS YEAR...WARM AND DRY. SEA-BREEZE WINDS COMING OFF ELLIOTT BAY THAT WARM AFTERNOON HELPED FAN THE FLAMES AND SPREAD THE FIRE FROM ONE BUILDING TO THE NEXT WITH EASE.”
“EACH OF US CAN HELP SMOKEY BEAR AND HIS MOTTO — ONLY YOU CAN PREVENT WILDFIRES — WHETHER IN URBAN OR RURAL AREAS.”
You know they mean business when they start name-dropping Smokey.
So please, dear citizens, store your firewood, fireworks, moonshine, marijuana and hash oil in a safe place.
But Spokane can have the Mariners: These days, only a cad would dare to think (perchance to dream) of a day when the northlands lay in ruins.
The Seahawks would migrate south and play at the Tacoma Dome. Or better yet, Stadium Bowl.
Dale Chihuly would return to his hometown to build a permanent glass exhibit here. Finally.
And Russell Investments would decide downtown Tacoma looks pretty good after all.
If only we could be so mercenary.
In the end, no matter how much Tacoma might benefit from a Seattle-less society, the better angels of our nature would surely prevail.
We would send up our fire trucks, as we did in 1889. We would help our obnoxious neighbors rise from the ashes, again.
As a University of Washington historical account of the Great Fire recalls: “Tacoma, no longer a rival, but an ally in the time of need, raised $20,000 and sent up a relief committee to help.”
So, yeah, if the Emerald City ever turns charcoal again, they can count on us to scratch up another $20,000 or so.
Frankly, we could never handle the pressure of being First Banana, anyway.
Whole lotta shakin’: Forget all the fearmongering about catastrophic urban fires. Everyone knows Seattleites (and us, too – yikes) are more likely to take it on the chin from a massive earthquake.
The big one. Or as New Yorker magazine calls it in its latest issue, the Really Big One.
This is blood-curdling stuff, but hardly surprising to anyone who read the definitive 2013 book “Full-Rip 9.0” by Seattle Times science writer (and TNT alum) Sandi Doughton.
The Stranger newspaper interviewed Doughton this week and asked her nine absolute need-to-know questions about preparing for a quake.
Our favorite: What should a couple do if they are having hanky-panky when it hits?
Her answer: “On Capitol Hill, in a relatively new building with no chandelier or mirror or glass light fixture hanging over the bed, I say carry on. The motion from the quake might be a pleasing addition.”
Or as the Schnoz’s new bumper sticker says: If the Northwest is rockin’, don’t bother knockin’.
And speaking of disasters: How about those competing minimum-wage measures coming to a Tacoma ballot near you?
Some might say the City Council’s $12 counterproposal to the 15 Now Tacoma group is not only confusing, but it has a random feel to it. Like maybe the mayor drew the number out of a hat or threw a dart at a living wage dartboard.
But we say it’s a brilliant way to save the expense of printing yard signs and campaign materials.
Fans of $12 can just recycle their old Seahawks gear.