Investigators say fire at Beacon Hill apartments was arson

SEATTLE — Investigators say a fire that caused $150,000 worth of damage at a Beacon Hill apartment building was arson.

Seattle firefighters were called to the building at 14th Avenue South and South Spokane Street at about 2:40 p.m. Tuesday. Arriving crews saw flames coming from a second-floor unit.

Ben Henry, who lives in the complex, was on his way home from grocery shopping when he saw the fire.

“It’s engulfed in flames, smoke, fire just spewing out,” Henry said.

He immediately thought of his son’s cat. Her name? Smokey.

“My boy, he’s eight, and that’s his kitty. They grew up together,” Henry said.

He lives right above the apartment where the fire started. The walls inside are decorated with artwork from his son – and you can’t miss the cat.

“I see the flames and I’m like, I don’t care. I don’t care how bad it is, I’m going in to get that cat. Because there’s no way, there’s no way I’m going to be telling my son that Smokey is gone,” Henry said.

He ran up the stairs and realized the danger.

“I looked up here and I was like if I go in there, I’m probably not coming out,” he said.

For an agonizing hour, Henry says he waited. Until finally, the fire chief, came out with Smokey in his arms.

“I gave them a hug. I was like are you kidding me?” Henry said.

Seattle Fire Department says what happened was arson.

The family that owns the building said a tenant who lives in this unit started the fire, and was experiencing a mental health issue.

“We have to have empathy for our neighbors. I don’t know what was going on with him, what was going on in his head but I hope he can find peace. And if he needs help, I hope he can find it,” Henry said.

The apartment where the fire started was gutted by the flames. Only the concrete walls are left.

Incredibly, right upstairs, Henry’s home is mostly OK. There are a couple of holes in the walls and some smoke damage.

“I was just overwhelmed with the feeling of gratefulness because it could’ve been so much worse,” he said.

The Beacon Hill unit of the fire department is about a quarter mile away from the apartment, and tenants say crews arrived quickly. Once water was applied, the fire was under control within 15 minutes.

Fire investigators determined the fire was intentionally set in the kitchen of the second-floor unit.

The first floor is a parking garage.

No injuries were reported.

The Seattle Police Department arson unit is investigating. It says no one is in custody.

Damage is estimated to be $100,000 to the building and $50,000 to the apartments’ contents. The American Red Cross was called to help those who were displaced.

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