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UPDATED: Arson suspect arrested after early morning Bellingham clinic fire

BELLINGHAM, Wash. — First responders were dispatched about 4am on Wednesday, November 8th, to a medical clinic building in the 1500 block of Ellis Street due to reports of a fire.

Unconfirmed radio transmissions at the time said the first personnel to arrive reported flames visible at an exterior entrance.

Bellingham Police Department Spokesperson Megan Peters told Whatcom News via email that BPD arrested and booked a yet unnamed man into the Whatcom County Jail suspected of starting the fire. The man is being held on suspicion of 2nd-degree arson and 1st-degree malicious mischief.

Peters said in a later email that a bench in the outside of the clinic was destroyed by fire, which also caused damage to nearby walls, ceiling, lamps and a fixture that appeared to be a camera on the building.

The BPD officer contacted a male (John Doe), who was under a blanket near the back door of the building. The man willingly talked to the officer, but the man’s speech was scattered. While speaking with the officer, the man produced a lighter. John Doe had a strong odor of smoke on his person and his belonging. Some of his belongings were also singed. Surveillance footage from the area showed John Doe stuffing papers into the bench and lighting them on fire. Surveillance footage also showed the man shoving papers under the back door of the facility and attempting to light them on fire. Based on the man’s proximity to the fire, stating he had been in the spot the fired occurred, his possessions showing fire damage, having a lighter in his possession, smelling of smoke, and the video footage, probable cause was established to arrest John Doe for Malicious Mischief in the 1st Degree. No injuries were reported. Damage is estimated to be likely over $7,500. Bellingham Police Department (November 8, 2023)

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