Fire ravages Snoqualmie Inn
October 2, 2008 · Updated 5:25 PM
SNOQUALMIE - Jim Burrows didn't want a certain can of pesticide to start rumors.
It started a fire instead.
The marketing director for Snoqualmie Inn, 9050 384th Ave. S.E., spotted an aerosol can of pesticide for killing fleas and bedbugs sitting out on the front desk at the inn last Thursday morning. He grabbed it and set it away from the eyes of guests - near the hot deep fryer in the kitchen.
The can fell into the hot fryer, shooting a geyser of bug spray into the air. That explosion caused several other cans of pesticide in the kitchen to erupt into flames that took three local fire stations more than an hour to control on a rainy afternoon.
The incident occurred around noon, causing about $600,000 in damages at the Snoqualmie bed and breakfast. At the time of the fire, five people were inside the building, including four employees and one guest. No one was injured.
"I didn't even think about setting it there," Burrows said. "I set it there on accident, just out of sight. I didn't want it to start rumors so I put it out of the way in the kitchen. Obviously, it was the wrong thing to do."
Snoqualmie Inn owner John Patterson had cooked hashbrowns for guests in the deep fryer that morning. Burrows said he didn't realize it was still on when he set the pesticide down. Burrows said the inn was full Wednesday night so many breakfasts had to be made. All the guests but one were gone before the fire.
Burrows bought 15 room bombs for killing fleas and bedbugs three days earlier after reading reports of the increasing problem of bedbugs in hotels, even top-of-the-line hotels.
La Cascina, the restaurant inside Snoqualmie Inn, closed down in late April due to the departure of its chef, Stanislao Riccio. The rest of the inn has remained open, however. Burrows said the inn operates as a bed and breakfast so the kitchen is still used each morning but closed the rest of the time. Due to a depressed hotel market, the Snoqualmie Inn has changed ownership several times over the years.
The "illusion," Burrows said, is that the fire was started on purpose.
"If it wasn't for the fact that I saw what happened, I'd be suspicious as well. It was stupidity, but not intentional," Burrows said. "It wasn't anybody's plan. It was a cluster screw up. Look, I almost got killed yesterday ... do you think for one moment this piece of property is worth me dying over?"
The King County Fire Marshall is still investigating exactly how the fire started and did not return calls from the Valley Record.
"It's a very complex situation," said Snoqualmie Fire Department Chief Bob Rowe. "They're still interviewing the employees that were in there, still trying to put the pieces together, making sure statements match the evidence. It will be a couple of weeks minimum before we get an idea of exactly what happened."
Burrows said a guest recently snuck a dog into a room. The inn had to clean the carpet and he figured it needed to be sprayed for fleas as well.
"I thought hell, might as well spray all the rooms. It's one of the precautionary measures you take," he said. "If the Helmsley Hotel has [bedbugs], you make sure it doesn't happen to you."
About 15-20 firefighters from Eastside Fire and Rescue, King County Fire Protection District No. 27 in Fall City and the Snoqualmie Fire Department were all working on the scene. The firefighters could not make entry into the kitchen before the roof collapsed. The windy conditions, no ceiling sprinklers and the regular challenges of a grease fire didn't help the situation.
Marque Burbatt is in the process of selling the building to Patterson. Burbatt and Patterson will be meeting with their insurance company on Thursday.
Patterson said he had been trying to sell the business for $1.9 million since February because cash flow had been a problem.
"I was disappointed. With a year and a half of efforts put into this place, to see it end like that was not how I planned," Patterson said. "We were working on remarketing the place and it wasn't cash flowing compared to what we put in the market. "