New Year’s fire incident at Neighbours investigated — UPDATE: ARSON

The Seattle Fire Department’s marshal was called to Broadway’s Neighbours just minutes after the legendary gay night spot’s midnight 2014 celebration to investigate a suspected arson fire and the triggering of the club’s automatic fire sprinkler system. SFD’s Ladder 10 was dispatched to the dance club at 1509 Broadway at 12:16 AM. The arriving firefighters found the building’s sprinkler system activated and the club’s 750 or so partygoers were cleared outside.

UPDATE: CHS has learned that the fire was set on an internal staircase while the club was “packed with patrons.” We’re told one patron grabbed an extinguisher and knocked down the fire before it could spread and then the fire sprinkler system extinguished the rest of the flames. There were no injuries.

Arson Bomb Squad detectives. As of early Wednesday morning, police did not have a suspect.

Seattle Fire puts the damage estimate at $6,000.

Seattle Police were called to the scene to assist in crowd control to keep patrons and staff from re-entering the building during the investigation.

UPDATE: SPD has released a preliminary report that calls the incident an “arson fire” and documents that an unknown perpetrator is believed to have poured gasoline on a carpeted stairway leading to the club’s second level.

Detectives Investigating Arson Fire at Capitol Hill Bar

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page1image41872page1image42272Suspect being sought in arson bar fire. On 1/1/2014, just shortly after midnight, an unknown suspect poured gasoline on a carpeted stairway leading to the second level of a bar and ignited it.

The bar in the 1500 block of Broadway was occupied by over 750 patrons celebrating New Years Eve at the time. The fire was quickly discovered before it could spread beyond the stairway and was extinguished with a fire extinguisher.

Someone pulled the fire alarm and caused the fire sprinkler system to activate. An orderly evacuation was accomplished and no one was injured.

Arson Bomb Detectives (ABS) responded after being notified by SFD Fire Investigators.

No suspect information available. The investigation continues.

In 2012, CHS reported on seismic and fire system upgrades the City of Seattle said were required for Neighbours to operate as a multi-level nightclub. Earlier in December 2011, the Seattle Fire Marshal had threatened to shut the club down just days before its planned New Year’s Eve bash.

This year’s New Year’s party included “Entertainment, Hats and favors, Champagne and Dancing til the wee hours of New Years Day” and promised to “bring in the New Year the way only Capitol Hill knows how to do it!!”

Performer Aleksa Manila posted this defiant note about the 2014 NYE incident:

THANK YOU #SEATTLE for an amazing #nye2013countdown at #neighboursnightclub unfortunately, someone tried to burn the club down after midnight. whoever you are – i hope you come forward, or if anyone knows any information, please call 911. this club has been the #1 gay nightclub in the northwest for over 30 years. nothing’s gonna stop us from celebrating diversity & providing a safe space for everyone.

The club will remain shuttered until water and fire damage can be repaired though we’re hearing that could happen relatively quickly.

UPDATE: Shaun Knittel, Capitol Hill resident and associate editor at Seattle Gay News, was at Neighbours and caught the aftermath of the incident on video he provided to KOMO. The images include a gasoline can reportedly discovered near the scene of the fire inside the club. Knittel also continues to be active with Social Outreach Seattle, a group he helped form to combat street and hate crimes.

UPDATE — 1/2/14 — 9 AM: Neighbours has released a statement on the incident and says due to “the possibility of jeopardizing the investigation,” management must wait before providing more information on what happened. The statement credits patrons Christopher Bostick and Mike Casey and Neighbours bartender Lucas Shipley for acting quickly to locate an extinguisher behind the bar and extinguish the flames. The statement also credits staff for pulling the fire alarm “ensuring the sprinkler system was activated” and helping patrons evacuate the building.

The statement posted Wednesday night does not say when Neighbours will reopen but a person who said he was acting as spokesperson for the club told CHS there are hopes to be back open by Thursday night.

Last night, at approximately fifteen minutes after ringing in the new year, someone or a group of people committed arson by dousing the steps nearest the Broadway Street entrance of Neighbours with gasoline and setting them on fire. The assailant(s) left behind a plastic 1 liter gas container at the top of the stairs. What could have been a catastrophic loss of property and lives was diverted by the quick thinking and professional actions of the Neighbours staff. We are happy to report that the fire did not harm, or even injure anyone, because friends and U.S. service members Christopher Bostick and Mike Casey and Neighbours Seattle bartender Lucas Shipley located and grabbed a fire extinguisher and put the fire out in under 30 seconds. The bar staff pulled the fire alarm immediately after they saw smoke, ensuring the sprinkler system was activated and letting everyone know that they had to vacate the premises. Within two minutes, everyone had exited the building and nobody was hurt. Fire rescue and SPD officials arrived on scene and due to an ongoing investigation into what happened, we cannot, at this time, offer any further comment on the matter except that we are thankful for the fact that no one was hurt, honored that so many of you have reached out with words of support since the incident, and happy for your continued patronage. More information will be made available when we are able to put out the information without the possibility of jeopardizing the investigation.

UPDATE: Police are looking for tips: “If you saw anything suspicious in or around the bar on New Year’s Eve, please call the SPD Arson/Bomb Squad tip line at (206) 684-8980″

19 thoughts on “New Year’s fire incident at Neighbours investigated — UPDATE: ARSON

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  3. Hmmm. If I was going to do something like this I would have come in several hours early, danced, then gone out for a cigarette. After a several trips, and I got the security staff accustomed to my routine to where they just waved me in, I would smuggle in the gas can.
    I’d ask the staff who they let in several times all night from smoking.

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  7. I know people are drunk on New Year’s Eve, but the more I think about this incident the harder it is for me to believe that someone walked into a crowded club with a gas cannister, poured on the stairs, lit it on fire, and ran away without *anyone* noticing. Someone knows something and if they haven’t already I hope they find the courage to come forward.

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