Homeowner arrested in arson where gas can, ammo inside



FERNDALE, Wash. - Police have arrested a man on charges of first-degree arson after fire officials found a gas can and hundreds of rounds of ammunition inside the burning home, investigators said.


Firefighters responded to a blaze at the home at 7115 West 40th Street in Ferndale Wednesday morning,  but crews pulled back, and an armored police vehicle and SWAT team were called in, after firefighters found at least one gas can and a note inside the house presumed to be from the owner, threatening to harm himself.


Fire investigators said they heard more than 100 rounds of ammunition exploding as crews backed off.


The home belongs to Kenneth Cassell.  He was convicted of running a puppy mill and was sentenced to 10 days in jail last year after 50 malnourished dogs were taken from his home in April.


Part of Cassell's sentence was that he could never own animals again.


Video from Chopper 7 showed the building being consumed by flames as fire trucks backed away.   The home was allowed to burn itself out because of the danger of what was inside.


Investigators said the fire appeared to have started in the kitchen or living room.


Numerous officers and firefighters responded but remained a safe distance from the house.


An armored vehicle was used to approach the home and other buildings on the property.


Cassell was not home when authorities searched the property during the fire.


The Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office said it received calls that Cassell was in downtown Bellingham.  Police found Cassell, and deputies questioned him at their office.


He was later arrested on charges of first-degree arson.  Whatcom County Undersheriff Jeff Parks said Cassell did not confess.


According to the Bellingham Herald, Cassell's house was set to be auctioned off on Friday and authorities say he was "down" about losing his dogs.