An arsonist doused a carpeted stairwell in gasoline and lit it on fire shortly after midnight on New Year's Day as approximately 750 patrons celebrated the new year at Neighbours, one of Seattle's oldest gay clubs.
The crisis was averted by two military members — US Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Bostick and Air Force member Mike Casey — who fought the blaze until the club's sprinkler system was activated.
According to the Neighbours Nightclub Seattle Facebook page, Bostick, Casey, and 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 investigators found an empty gas can at the top of the stairwell, a move Bostick, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, thinks was intentional.
"I think this person walked up the stairs with the can in their hand and poured it out as they walked. They set it down, went back down the stairs and lit it, with the intent to blow up the gas can," he told KTVU.
Seattle Fire Department spokesman Kyle Moore told the Seattle Times that the fire caused approximately $1,000 in damages and the sprinklers probably caused an additional $6,000. Still, the club was open for business by the next night.
Police have not announced any suspects, and a spokesperson said that the fire has yet to be classified as a hate crime. According to Neighbours, "More information will be made available when we are able to put out the information without the possibility of jeopardizing the investigation."
[image via Facebook]