Two members of the armed forces put out a potentially catastrophic fire, the work of an arsonist, at a famous gay club in Seattle on New Year’s Eve.
“It was like the Carrie movie,” U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Bostick told KTVU. “You see just fire everywhere. And that’s all you can see and for a second, that’s all you’re focused on.”
The arsonist had put a match to a carpeted stairwell that he’d soaked in gasoline a few minutes before the stroke of midnight at Neighbours, a historic Seattle gay nightclub. 750 people were celebrating inside.
“I’m embarrassed to say, my first move was to go after it with cups of water. Then I quickly realized, this fire is way bigger than that,” said the quick-thinking solider.
Bostick, an Iraq and Afghanistan vet, was helped by fellow partygoer Mike Casey, a member of the Air Force. Bostick grabbed the fire extinguisher and the men were able to keep the flames at bay until the club’s sprinkler system was activated.
“If we hadn’t reacted to it, it would have taken too long for someone to react, and that fire would have become unmanageable in another 30 seconds,’’ Bostick said. “…There’s no telling how many people could have died.”
Seattle Fire Department Spokesman Kyle Moore agreed.
“This could potentially have been much worse,” Moore told the Seattle Times. “You have an establishment full of patrons and an intentionally set fire. That’s a very dangerous situation.”
Luckily, and thanks to Bostick and Casey’s instant reactions, no one was hurt in the incident. The revelers all filed out of the building quickly but with a minimum of panic.
Bostick’s job in the Army is to track terrorism. He was fighting it that night, he says.
“This was a planned attack on a large quantity of people in order to affect an entire community,” Bostick said. “To me, that's terrorism."
Seattle arson investigators are looking for clues from the club’s surveillance video and neighboring businesses. KIRO-TV reported that the FBI are keeping an eye on the case and will help if necessary, but Seattle mayor Ed Murray reminded the public not to call the incident a hate crime until a motive is established.
"I think we have to be very careful to jump to the hate crimes level until the police and the Seattle Fire Department have had the chance to do a thorough investigation," Murray said.
The Seattle Times reported that the incident caused the club a total of $7000 in damage— $1000 to the building, and $6000 to the interior due to the sprinkler system. Club owners do not know when the establishment will be reopened.
As one patron put it, speaking to the newspaper when she returned to the club for her coat, “Someone is not a nice person.”