Update: House fire in Arbor Heights blamed on spider-killing attempt

July 15, 2014 at 8:33 pm | In Arbor Heights, West Seattle fires, West Seattle news | 58 Comments

(WSB photo)
8:33 PM: Firefighters are arriving at a house fire in Arbor Heights near 34th and 102nd (map), reporting black smoke and also that ammunition is going off in the house – so they’ll be fighting it from outside.

(Photo texted by Joe)
8:38 PM: Scanner now indicates they don’t believe there’s more ammunition in the building and they are changing firefighting tactics.

(WSB photo)
8:48 PM: Our crew is at the scene. No word yet on whether anyone’s been hurt. They believe everyone in the house got out safely.

8:58 PM: Just talked again with our crew at the scene. The fire appears to be under control but there are still flare-ups of flames visible here and there. Way too soon to know what caused it.

Above this line, we’ve added a quick Instagram clip – you can see firefighters on the roof and hear the saws they’re using to ventilate the attic.

(WSB photo)
9:18 PM UPDATE: We’ve just talked again with firefighters. The fire began in a bedroom and spread up to the attic. The house has major damage and isn’t inhabitable. One person was inside when it started, and we’re told he got out OK, unhurt. The “ammunition going off” suspicion is now a mystery – we’re told the resident said there had been firearm(s)/ ammunition in there, belonging to a renter who moved out a few weeks ago, so whatever the bangs/pops were in the early going, they now don’t know. SFD’s investigator is en route to work on figuring out how the fire started.

ADDED 11:16 PM: From SFD: “Cause of West Seattle Arbor Heights fire is man using spray paint can & lighter to try and kill spider in the wall. Damage estimate $60k.”


  1. Tons of fire men knew was bad when city of Seattle and tons of battalion hope everyone safe

    Comment by Ca — 8:42 pm July 15, 2014 #

  2. My son and I are listening to the scanner. Fire is knocked down on first floor, but fire is still in attic. One person did get out safetly (per the scanner)

    Comment by JC — 8:54 pm July 15, 2014 #

  3. What is up with fires and Arbor Heights? I heard all the sirens and it makes me worry. Good to hear that it looks like nobody was hurt.

    Comment by Eric1 — 8:55 pm July 15, 2014 #

  4. The neighborhood is swarming with people racing in from everywhere to have a look. The streets are lined with cars parked helter skelter so that their passengers can jump out and run toward the action. At one point, there were so many gawkers swarming in that they were beginning to block the response vehicles. There is a party atmosphere, as if they’re all going to see a fireworks display. Little kids, driven here by parents, running toward the scene with big, excited grins, yelling “fire! fire!”. Whoopee. They need the cops just to control the jubilant crowds.

    It’s absolutely repugnant.

    Comment by anonyme — 9:01 pm July 15, 2014 #

  5. is there another fire in arbor heights? was watching from the deck and several fire trucks drive past this place with their sirens going and continued down 35th.

    Comment by rob — 9:07 pm July 15, 2014 #

  6. Nope. They might have been coming back around another way, but this is the only thing dispatched …

    Comment by WSB — 9:13 pm July 15, 2014 #

  7. Anybody else see the crazy looking drone just fly over heading south-west?

    Comment by Ian white — 9:18 pm July 15, 2014 #

  8. I too am curious about the amount of fires we’ve had in Arbor Heights. This is the 6th fire that I know of in the 6 years that ive lived here. All between 34th and California and all within half a block or less from 102nd. At least 4 of those were either serious damage or total loss.

    And I agree, it is sick how many people drive in from other neighborhoods to watch. I’ve seen the party atmosphere too.

    Comment by Lynne — 9:40 pm July 15, 2014 #

  9. I’d say “I’ll look that up” but in reality I know I won’t get a chance tonight. Anyone who’s really curious can use the handy research tool, data.seattle.gov – here’s the DB of 911 calls – you can search with factors such as “fire in single-family residence” and you can search for streets with SW in them, indicating West Seattle, etc. …

    Comment by WSB — 9:48 pm July 15, 2014 #

  10. This is the general location of one of dozens of major fireworks displays in the neighborhood recently. Maybe the pops were just the remainder of the unused, illegal stash…

    Comment by anonyme — 9:55 pm July 15, 2014 #

  11. anonyme@ Get a clue ! The only one embelishing this sad time for the home owner is you. Knock off your stupid high horse comments. There was no cheering except in your mind. By the way what were you doing there. Seattle Fire ! Great Job. Nobody got hurt Today.

    Comment by Billy — 9:59 pm July 15, 2014 #

  12. I just saw on the news (KIRO 7) that the fire started when a guy in the house tried to kill a spider with a lighter and a spray can of some sort, making a blow torch.

    Comment by ~HockeyWitch~ — 11:12 pm July 15, 2014 #

  13. HW, I just added that to the story. SFD announced it while we were away from the keyboard for a bit.

    Comment by WSB — 11:18 pm July 15, 2014 #

  14. Edit: HockeyWitch beat me to it with the aerosol/lighter report.

    Comment by Amy — 11:19 pm July 15, 2014 #

  15. Heard 3 loud shots/fireworks go off approximately 15 minutes before all the sirens in the neighborhood. Wasn’t sure if they were related but could explain the “ammo” confusion.

    Comment by MonosyllabicGirl — 11:32 pm July 15, 2014 #

  16. perfectly adequate response. that’s what i do when i see a spider in my house.

    Comment by RarelyEver — 11:52 pm July 15, 2014 #

  17. Should have nuked it from orbit instead of killing it with fire.

    Comment by kg — 12:03 am July 16, 2014 #

  18. “Cause of West Seattle Arbor Heights fire is man using spray paint can & lighter to try and kill spider in the wall. Damage estimate $60k.”


    Comment by exasperated — 12:31 am July 16, 2014 #

  19. Did they get the spider?

    Comment by Seaview Chris — 1:14 am July 16, 2014 #

  20. Well, I feel badly for tenant who did a very dumb thing, and terribly for the home owner whose property was severely damaged, and very, very grateful that no one was hurt. Which makes me feel sort of OK for laughing at one of the best headlines WSB has had.

    A glass and piece of paper is much better way of handling wayward arthropods. Object lesson.

    Comment by elarem — 1:22 am July 16, 2014 #

  21. As a fellow compatriot who has killed a spider with a NON ignited can of spray paint; I feel there is one important question that has yet been answered: “Is the spider confirmed dead?”

    Comment by Sarah — 1:27 am July 16, 2014 #

  22. Spiders are our friends. While we do have some scary looking spiders we have very few poisonous spiders in the PNW.
    Please remember before you freak out and take a life of a creature that is not yours to take- that they eat the other bugs that do more harm to us on a daily basis like Mosquitos. We’d be in a world if trouble without our spider friends. Think about that the next time you are afraid of something a thousand times smaller than you? Ps. Seriously, imagine being covered & drowned in spray paint only to have a slow & agonizing death. You people are awful and seriously need to look at yourselves in the mirror. You never know next time it may just cost you your house and 60k…

    Comment by I heart spiders — 5:47 am July 16, 2014 #

  23. This is why we can’t have nice things.

    Comment by Jason — 6:12 am July 16, 2014 #

  24. My IQ just dropped by 40.

    Comment by bemused — 6:57 am July 16, 2014 #

  25. @ Anonyme- Quite the dramatic look at things,eh? When Ive brought my kids to fires in the past it was for two reasons. One was to see if everyone got out ok and if they needed something we may have to offer including palace to stay etc. Second, was to teach my kids compassion for others. If everyone sat at home and ignored all the sirens each day, it would be a sign that people are so self absorbed and don’t care whats going on around them.
    I was there before the crowd got bigger. The main question everyone asked each other was ‘Is everyone ok,did they get out? I stayed by the guy whos house was burning. He hugged me,he cried, he talked. I offered to take him shopping since he lost his clothes in the fire. I offered him a place to stay so he could get to work today. Thats what community does when they gather to see a house fire.
    I was glad to see so many kids there, this tells me their parents are teaching them the dangers of a house fire, not sitting there amused that a structure is burning.

    Comment by alki Resident — 6:57 am July 16, 2014 #

  26. AR, thank you. I also want to remind people that as double-take-inducing as the fire’s cause sounds, the end result is something certainly no one expected or wished for, and some attempted (not approved) comments so far crossed the line into personal cruelty remarking on the person(s) involved rather than the situation. That’s not what this site is about. Thanks.

    Comment by WSB — 7:11 am July 16, 2014 #

  27. My 5 year old son, Jonas, who is an eternal optimist, said, “well, at least he killed the spider”

    Comment by AmandaKH — 8:05 am July 16, 2014 #

  28. How’s the spider doing?

    Comment by sittingbird — 9:58 am July 16, 2014 #

  29. Just saw this story on the View. Whoopi said it might be her favorite story ever!

    Comment by LG — 10:37 am July 16, 2014 #

  30. A potentially tragic situation and people are trying to impress others with their adolescent snarky humor? You people are twisted.

    Comment by G — 10:51 am July 16, 2014 #

  31. Oh, come on, WSB! You can’t tell me that you didn’t know that posting the cause of the fire — prominently in the headline and on Facebook — would invite comments on the intelligence/competence of the occupant. And to call out for thanks one of the most sanctimonious posts I’ve ever read?!? Deleting inappropriate comments is within your purview but that is enough.

    Comment by ugh — 10:51 am July 16, 2014 #

  32. It’s not a matter of “didn’t know.” I had hoped people would be kinder, given that this is the news publication for the victim’s own neighborhood. As for mentioning it in the headline, it’s a straightforward treatment – the headline did not attempt a pun, a joke, or anything demeaning. That’s what SFD says happened, and when SFD announces the cause, we usually add it to the headline (the last line is a direct quote from their announcement on Twitter). I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the rest of the media world is having a jolly old time with this, and they’re welcome to it. Not here. That’s the way we’ve always rolled. We don’t do as good a job of it sometimes as we aspire to and lately on occasion we’ve failed mightily. But we keep trying. – TR

    Comment by WSB — 11:04 am July 16, 2014 #

  33. WSB, I suspect you knew exactly what type of comments that your headline and story would create.
    I find the indignation amusing and somewhat ridiculous.

    Comment by Scout 15 — 11:39 am July 16, 2014 #

  34. I live one house over from the house that caught fire. I was sitting in my living room with my little girls and I said “oh my gosh something smells like it’s burning!” my mom and I ran outside and saw thick black smoke heading straight at our house. We could see that it was coming from the house one over and we thought that our neighbors house had caught fire as well so my step-dad ran over to get her and her dog out. She was laying down and was woken up by what she thought were firecrackers going off which we now know was ammunition going off. Because it was so hot out that day/evening all our windows were open and fans on and our house completely filled with smoke. Having 2 little girls and hearing gunshots I grabbed the kids and my mom and I got them in the car and took off just as the 5 firetrucks, 3 police and 2 ambulance cars were pulling up. It was absolutely horrible. As people were coming to check things out the police had to have them move back because of the sounds of ammunition and that’s also another reason that the firefighter couldnt get in right away because of the fear of being hit by the stray bullets. So they started from the top of the house and then were able to move in. The fire before this one a few months ago caught fire again 5 days after they put it out so the Fire Marshall told us that there would be firefighters outside the house all night which true to their word there were 3 trucks still outside when I woke up at 3am to look outside. Apparently the renter who had moved out just a couple weeks ago had guns but they’re now saying that there weren’t any guns or ammunition left in the house when the fire started so they’re not exactly sure what the “pops” were when it first started. Anyway, I’m glad everyone got out safely, that the neighboring houses didn’t catch fire and that all the emergency, police and especially firefighters were safe and uninjured. Bless those men and woman. While everyone else runs away, they go running in.

    Comment by Claire Jaramillo — 12:13 pm July 16, 2014 #

  35. It seems the story is going viral. Washington Post, Gawker, Time, NBC News, The View, and tons of local news affiliates all over the US have picked up the story.

    Comment by Colby — 12:14 pm July 16, 2014 #

  36. Says spider was “IN THE WALL” not “ON THE WALL. The moral is to only use this technique if spider is ON wall, not IN wall! Got it folks? There really should be warnings about this on spray cans. Also, if a spider goes in your shirt or pants, DO NOT USE THIS METHOD!

    Comment by I. Ponder — 12:40 pm July 16, 2014 #

  37. ugh and Scout, so, I guess WSB should stop reporting NEWS?


    The snarky comments have nothing to do with the fact that WSB published this story, nor does it have to do with how WSB worded the headline. It has everything to do with how various readers choose to respond.


    I often wonder if those that non-constructively complain about WSB’s Comment Policy being too strict/too relaxed, actually read the comments on other news sites, and other websites in general.




    Comment by miws — 12:50 pm July 16, 2014 #

  38. MIWS,

    Your response is incredibly insightful and eloquent.

    Thank you for being a voice of reason.

    Comment by Duskyviolet — 1:04 pm July 16, 2014 #

  39. For the commenter who mentions the national media interest – SFD’s spokesperson tells us he’s been deluged, to the point where he went back over to the house because of interview requests, and because regional-media crews have been coming and going all day in hopes of finding the residents (we’re now told that’s the man and his mom – they can’t go back in the house so they’re staying elsewhere). We had two requests from national news organizations for our photos; couldn’t reply because shortly after I noted the subject lines on the inbox list, our mail server broke and became inaccessible. (Anyone trying to reach us for anything TFN – westseattleblog@gmail.com – the editor@ mailbox is down.) – Tracy

    Comment by WSB — 1:17 pm July 16, 2014 #

  40. Just saw this on my FB feed…from CBS NEWS!

    Comment by Lox — 1:25 pm July 16, 2014 #

  41. I’ve heard it was bad luck to kill spiders. Now there’s proof. Arachnids – 1/Man – 0.

    Comment by Steina Franken — 2:36 pm July 16, 2014 #

  42. I.ponder, there us a fire hazard warning on every can of spray paint I’ve ever seen. It rarely stops the less than forward thinking from replicating internet memes, but the warning is there.

    Comment by Civik — 3:08 pm July 16, 2014 #

  43. The fact that this became a national news story is because this country has become so dumbed down that they find stories like this relatable. They have been showing the Mike Judge film “Idiocracy” lately and if you haven’t seen it I believe you will find visions of our future from a comedic prophet.

    Comment by DTK — 3:24 pm July 16, 2014 #

  44. Did the itsy-bitsy spider get out and survive the flames?

    Comment by Bill — 4:04 pm July 16, 2014 #

  45. No report on the spider’s fate. Perhaps at the very least we need a sidebar reminder that most spiders around here are harmless, no matter how scary they look … but I know some people are creeped out by them regardless.

    Comment by WSB — 4:08 pm July 16, 2014 #

  46. Parents teach their kids to fear insects for no good reason. Just a couple weeks ago a guy had a near-fatal car crash because a ‘bee’ was in his car. Most of the time people call yellowjackets ‘bees’ even though they are wasps and unrelated to bees.

    Comment by I. Ponder — 4:13 pm July 16, 2014 #

  47. Sad this happened, but the story about the story going national etc, is a hoot.

    Comment by dsa — 4:19 pm July 16, 2014 #

  48. c’mon, wsb, are we really not supposed to find some level of humor and, uh, bewilderment, at this series of events?

    Comment by flimflam — 5:30 pm July 16, 2014 #

  49. To Lox and dsa…….Whoopi had the honor of reporting it this morning on ABC’s “The View”.

    Comment by buddsmom — 5:33 pm July 16, 2014 #

  50. @I Ponder: I wish you were right because that would mean that my childhood would’ve been much less painful. Unfortunately, I can’t blame my parents for my fear of bees and wasps. I grew up in the southeast. I vividly remember crying my eyes out as a little boy because of bee stings and wasp stings. In fact, yellow jackets typically stung for no reason compared to bees and other wasps. We also found black widow spiders in our house on a regular basis. Sorry but I won’t not kill a black widow spider in my home – I love my children too much. As for Seattle, can you distinguish a Hobo spider from its non-venomous twin without a microscope? I can’t. You shouldn’t make assumptions about what parents teach their children.

    Comment by No — 10:27 pm July 16, 2014 #

  51. Gawkers and trespassers are NOT welcome here on 34th / 102nd – if you are caught trespassing you will be dealt with accordingly. Please Stay away and let these people try to pick up the pieces.

    Comment by Don't trespass — 10:49 pm July 16, 2014 #

  52. So glad no one was hurt in this. As for spectators, get a life! Let emergency personnel do their jobs. As for the method, a sandal should handle it.

    Comment by Laura — 12:00 am July 17, 2014 #

  53. To No — The Hobo spider is not at all aggressive, contrary to many myths about them. The Burke Museum is a terrific resource about them — http://www.burkemuseum.org/spidermyth/myths/hobo.html#

    Comment by wssz — 12:54 am July 17, 2014 #

  54. @ I ponder, maybe you should stop pondering and “THINK” a little. Some people are allergic to stings. Honey bees, wasps, hornets, etc, etc.
    Does it matter if the correct name is given.
    Some have to carry a medicinal shot so they can breath and live. I use to be very allergic to stings and I’m happy to say I’ve out grown the need for medical care from them. But, alot of people are afraid of stings with due cause.

    Comment by let them swim — 3:59 pm July 17, 2014 #

  55. As a tarantula owner, I’m with you I Heart Spiders! I know they might look scary, but I promise, they are not out to get you!

    Comment by breezygirl — 6:54 pm July 17, 2014 #

  56. Story just made Jimmy Fallon… Wha what??

    Comment by Elle Nell — 11:42 pm July 17, 2014 #

  57. Welcome to the world of social media, aarg!

    Comment by Laura — 1:21 pm July 18, 2014 #

  58. I’d like to say, “Who does that sort of thing?” but apparently this person did. I always feel sorry for the victims a fire or similar circumstances and glad no one was hurt, but this is definitely a case of “logical consequences.” As others have pointed out, spiders are “good” bugs. Just catch them in a jar and put them outside. For other types of insects, use a can of Raid minus matches. A crazy story.

    Comment by Ray West — 5:35 am July 20, 2014 #

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