Saturday night's big lumberyard fire was arson, fire officials say. Damage was estimated at $4.3 million.
Video-surveillance footage from the scene of a four-alarm inferno at a North Queen Anne lumberyard on Saturday night is among the evidence fire investigators examined before ruling the massive blaze an arson on Tuesday, said Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins.
Standing before the charred and still-smoking remnants of the Gascoigne Lumber Co. and Northwest Millwork, Scoggins said he hadn’t seen the footage and couldn’t say if any accelerants had been used by whoever intentionally torched the businesses in the 3500 block of Sixth Avenue West. Samples were taken from the site and submitted for testing at the State Patrol Crime Lab, he said.
It took only seven minutes from the first alarm for the fire to build to a big conflagration, the largest in the city since 2010, burning two buildings to the ground and damaging three others, Scoggins said. At the height of the firefight, he said, firefighters were pumping 12,000 gallons of water a minute onto the blaze that shot flames 100 feet into the night sky.
“I believe our crews did an outstanding job in making sure this fire didn’t go anywhere,” the fire chief said, noting the close proximity to a marina filled with houseboats, and a couple of storage sheds and a cabinet shop which fire crews managed to protect.
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He said 142 firefighters joined the operation, with fire crews from Bellevue, Mercer Island, Tukwila and Renton coming to help backfill the city’s fire stations and respond to emergency calls.
“We basically had two-thirds of the city at this fire. That’s significant to note because those 911 calls don’t stop just because you have a large event in one single place,” Scoggins said, thanking the other departments for their support.
The department’s alarm system relates to the number of apparatus sent to a fire incident, with commanders on scene requesting that additional units respond, explained Kristin Tinsley, a Seattle Fire Department spokeswoman. A four-alarm fire is one level below a general alarm, which would require the largest response, she said.
On Tuesday, fire hoses snaked across the ground thick with crushed bits of charcoal, shattered glass, and charred planks of wood. Inside one warehouse, a couple smokestacks plumed amid burned-out forklifts, twisted metal and broken cinder blocks.
The fire department estimated damage at $4.3 million. Scoggins appealed to the public for help in finding a suspect.
“During the course of investigation, [fire investigators] determined the fire was intentionally set, and are ruling it as arson,” the fire department said in a statement Tuesday. The Seattle Police Department’s Arson and Bomb Squad has taken over the investigation.
The property has been turned back over to the owners, who have vowed to restart the business, though likely in a different location.
The buildings and sheds burned in the fire are leased by Northwest Millwork and Gascoigne Lumber, a family business established in 1926. The building housing Gascoigne’s administrative offices was relatively unscathed.
When firefighters arrived just after 8:40 p.m. Saturday, flames were shooting 100 feet in the air and a warehouse was fully engulfed, Kristin Tinsley, a spokeswoman for the fire department, said Monday.
Police are also investigating a Nov. 8 arson that caused $250,000 in damage to Seattle Elks Lodge 92, at 3014 Third Ave. N. The Elks Lodge is less than a mile south of the lumberyard, but Tinsley said Monday there is not yet any indication the two fires are related.