Fire that destroyed Lake City strip mall declared arson

A fire that destroyed a Lake City strip mall on Tuesday has been ruled arson. An agent with the ATF has joined the arson and bomb squad in their investigation.

The Seattle neighborhood fire happened just before 11 p.m. Monday night on NE 127th Street, burning at least 9 businesses and causing the shopping center's roof to collapse.

William Barker tearfully watched what was left of his barbershop and his wife's nail salon.

"As soon as I got here, the fire was so hot and I was on Lake City Way but I can feel it from there. It just broke my heart to see all the other business owners pull up and seeing them breaking down," said William Barker.

The owner of the 99 cent store that was destroyed said she's still trying to process the loss of her store.

"Your business is just like your family. It's happened, it's happened, you can't change it, you can't change it. My question is how did it happen?" said Mary Berhane.

Seattle police said suspects were seen running from the scene shortly before the fire started and fire investigators have now ruled the strip mall was intentionally set.

This was a tragic loss for Barker's barbershop that has been in the Lake City community for 20 years. It was a devastating setback for small businesses just trying to get by in the pandemic.

"We're a small business. We're month to month. We don't get any loans or anything like that because we're individual contractors, so we got to literally fight for everything," said Barker.

Barker and Berhane say they don't know what's next for them and although they lost their livelihoods, they haven't lost their faith.

"I've been praying a lot," said Barker.

Berhane adds, "God is good. God is great. There may be something good from this, that's what I'm thinking."

No one was hurt in the fire. Police are still searching for the suspects.