By Peggy Chapman
Northwest Asian Weekly
Approximately 150 people attended the ceremony honoring the death of the four firemen who risked their <!–more–>lives in the Pang Factory fire in Seattle’s Chinatown 20 years ago. In Occidental Park, where the memorial was held, four statues are erected commemorating these firefighters. Their statues are a notable feature of Seattle’s historic Pioneer Square, less than a block from Station 10, Seattle Fire Department headquarters.
The memoriam was set up by the Seattle Braves charity.
The firefighters who died in the warehouse fire were Lt. Gregory M. Shoemaker, Lt. Walter D. Kilgore, James T. Brown, and Randall R. Terlicker.
It was a solemn but sincere 20-year recognition of their deaths. The fire chief spoke. Approximately 20 family members of the deceased firefighters were in attendance.
The Pang Factory fire affected the Chinatown/International District community greatly, and also had a huge effect on the Seattle Fire Department and how it would change its practices.
Pang International Foods, Inc., was a warehouse built in 1908, located on Dearborn between Maynard and 7th in the Chinatown/International District of Seattle. The building was owned by the Pang family. The factory produced Mary Pang’s frozen foods, which included rice and egg rolls.
On January 5, 1995, there was an emergency report of a fire. It was eventually determined as arson.
The Seattle Fire Department responded to the alarm at the Pang warehouse. More than 100 men and women contributed to the response. The firefighters were criticized because they were not accurately prepared. The fire started in the basement and burned through a support beam which caused a section of the upper floor to collapse. It was not possible to attempt a rescue of the firefighters until the flames were retained because the building was too unsafe to enter.
It is assumed that Martin Pang was trying to collect insurance. There were allegations he was dealing with debt. According to history.org, he left for Brazil. Pang’s ex-wife and an FBI informant shared a $36,000 reward posted for his arrest and conviction.
In the one case that went to trial, the jury held the Fire Department 75 percent responsible for the tragedy and arsonist Pang 25 percent responsible. Pang was returned to the King County Jail on February 29, 1996.
He was sentenced to thirty‑five years imprisonment. He will be released Thanksgiving of 2018.
In the memoriam the honor guard, comprised of firemen who volunteer, assembled and some were holding axes. They rang a bell to open the ceremony and placed a white wreath on the statue. The honor guard was created after the Pang Factory fire, as well as the Firefighters Pipes and Drums Band. The band played “Amazing Grace.”
There was an informal vigil in the evening, at the original factory location, now a vacant lot, where firefighters stopped by after duty during the nightfall to pay their respects. (end)
Peggy Chapman can be reached at email@example.com.