Martin Pang, the man behind a 1995 arson that killed four Seattle firefighters, created a scheme while in prison to funnel money meant to go to first responders, police said Tuesday.
"Before Pang and his accomplice, Charles McClain, went through with their plan, an undercover detective was able to infiltrate their crime ring," police spokesman Jonah Spangenthal-Lee said in a statement. "The detective met with McClain, who gave the detective checks, Social Security information, and the IDs of planned fraud targets. During the investigation, Pang also provided a police source with the names and Social Security numbers of key witnesses in his 1995 case."
On Tuesday, we found and digitized previously unaired KIRO 7 footage of the Pang warehouse fire in the KIRO archive. Click below to watch the full interview with Martin’s father, Harry Pang, at the fire scene. Also included here are videos of the Jan. 5, 1995 fire scene and aerial views taken the following day.
At 7:02 p.m. on Jan. 5, 1995, firefighters were called to the Mary Pang Frozen Chinese Food plant at South Dearborn Street and Seventh Avenue South.
More than 100 firefighters battled the five-alarm blaze, and smoke could be seen from Bellevue and Mercer Island – where owners Harry and Mary Pang learned of the fire on KIRO/7.
Three of the victims - Lt. Walter Kilgore and firefighters James Brown and Randy Terlicker – died of asphyxiation after their air tanks emptied. Shoemaker, who lost his helmet and oxygen mask in the fall from the first floor, died of smoke inhalation.
Fire companies that responded to the Pang warehouse fire did not know that the building had been the target of arson threats, although Seattle Fire Department officials did. First responders also didn't have a building plan and didn't know of the basement.
As a result of the fire, department policies now require that crews be alerted to arson threats and any other potential hazards. The fire department also agreed to augment a safety officer position and create a safety division so the Department of Labor and Industries would reduce the $25,000 fine it levied after finding fire officials had interfered with a safety officer.
After claims against the city, jurors determined the firefighters' death was primarily the fault of the fire department, with Pang responsible for a quarter of the blame. After his conviction, Pang's ex-wife took a portion of the reward money.
He was scheduled to be released from prison in 2018, though police say his latest actions could change that. John Henry Browne, who was Pang's attorney, tried to get the arsonist's prison term nullified in 2005, sparking outrage from firefighters.