Evicted Man Arrested in Bellingham (WA) House Arson

Julie Shirley

The Bellingham Herald (Bellingham, Wash.)

(MCT)

Aug. 14—A man arrested on suspicion of arson and assault Monday, Aug. 9, was linked to a house fire on Billy Frank Jr. Street earlier that day, Bellingham Police confirmed Friday evening to The Bellingham Herald.

Nathanael Jollie Clark, 42, once lived in the house and left on bad terms after being evicted, according to an Aug. 13 email from Lt. Claudia Murphy, the Bellingham Police Department spokeswoman.

Clark remained in custody Friday evening with bail set at $100,000 for the arson arrest noted on the Whatcom County Jail log.

The Bellingham Fire Department was called to the area at 11:07 a.m. Monday after a couch fire on the front porch of the home in the Sehome Hill neighborhood spread to the house, causing significant damage, Capt. Dave Pethick told The Herald on Monday evening.

According to Murphy:

— One of the homeowners told investigators Clark was seen on his phone near Fire Station 3, which is at 1111 Billy Frank Jr. St., shortly after the porch fire was discovered.

— What-Comm dispatch got a 911 call at 11:12 a.m., from a phone number later traced to Clark, reporting the fire. The caller told the dispatcher he was at the fire department and that he could see smoke and flashing lights and said, “I started the fire, though.” When asked his name, the caller replied “Nate Clark.”

The caller told the dispatcher “it just went up” and “I guess there must have been something on/in the couch or something, I was lighting a cigarette” and “there must have been some sort of an accelerant, I don’t know, couch.”

The caller told the dispatcher he was wearing a black tank-top and jeans and he would remain at the fire station. However, when police arrived, the caller was no longer there.

— Further investigation, Murphy said, revealed that Clark had left his new residence in the 900 block of High Street with a metal can containing camp fuel.

Detectives were sent to the High Street residence based on a 911 call saying Clark was there. A witness told them Clark had left the residence earlier “angry and growling” and they argued about him not returning a fuel can.

— The detectives developed probable cause to arrest Clark for assault fourth-degree (domestic violence) based on the incident. He was arrested when he returned to the High Street house.

— A search warrant was granted for the fire scene and investigators found a metal Coleman fuel container at the base of the front porch steps and confirmed its contents were petroleum-based.

— That led officers to develop probable cause to arrest Clark for first-degree arson, which is knowingly and maliciously causing a fire dangerous to human life, including the residents and firefighters, as well as causing damage to the residence in the process.

“There was significant damage to the home, but no injuries to any civilians,” the fire department’s Pethick told The Herald, adding that a couple of firefighters received attention for over-exertion and heat but were found to be fine.

Pethick said it took about six hours for crews to put out all the hot spots of the fire.

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