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Tuesday, June 6, 2023
June 6, 2023

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Arson suspect arrested in Lake Union fire that damaged about 30 boats


SEATTLE — White smoke rose from the shores of Portage Bay up to the Ship Canal Bridge Wednesday morning as a massive fire at a Seattle Boat Company storage facility on Lake Union damaged dozens of boats.

Crews went to the 700 block of Northeast Northlake Way around 2 a.m., according to the Seattle Fire Department. There were 30 boats stacked in the dry storage facility involved in the fire, according to the department, and a company official said there were “about 85 or so” boats on site.

An arson bomb squad detective found a man hiding in a boat docked near the fire, according to Seattle police. The 32-year-old was taken to Harborview Medical Center. He was arrested and was expected to be booked into King County Jail once medically cleared, police said.

Firefighters found an adjacent warehouse was burning, found no one inside and used ladder pipes — aerial ladders with pre-piped waterways — to flow water on the building, the department said.

The fire was under control by 3:30 a.m., according to the department.

The foam the Fire Department used to fight the blaze is environmentally safe and biodegradable, said David Cuerpo, a department spokesperson.

The Department of Ecology and the U.S. Coast Guard were also on scene Wednesday. Coast Guard crews surveyed the water and reported no sheen from oil. Small amounts of foam remained in the water and will disperse naturally, the Coast Guard said.

The agencies deployed buoys to stop more hazardous chemicals from leaking from the boats into Portage Bay and Lake Union, Cuerpo said.

Elizabeth Bohling, the Seattle Boat Company’s assistant general manager, said the facility has security measures in place.

“We’ve got locked gates, we have a lot of camera footage, and we’ve got security systems inside the building as well,” she said, adding that the security footage has been provided to the detectives for evidence.

Sikey Vlahos, the owner of Voula’s Offshore Cafe, and his brother got to the restaurant across the street from the boat facility around 5:45 a.m. At that point, fire crews were “at the point where they were just trying to put it out,” Vlahos said.

“We encountered a fire across the street at Seattle Boat,” Vlahos said. “It was at the point where they were just trying to put it out.”

Sergio Soto, an employee at nearby Ivar’s Salmon House, traveled on Interstate 5 before arriving at work around 6 a.m. and he said he “started smelling something was burning.”

Shortly after 9 a.m. Wednesday, white smoke was billowing from the burning boats as high as the Ship Canal Bridge above. Cars on Northeast Northlake Way drove over white foam on the street.

By 10 a.m., smoke was no longer seen rising.

Northeast Northlake Way and Northeast Pacific Street remain blocked in both directions between Sixth Avenue Northeast and Seventh Avenue Northeast, according to the Seattle Department of Transportation.