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Scene of a residential fire on Billy Frank Junior Street (August 9, 2021). Photo courtesy of Bellingham Fire Department

Man arrested for suspicion of arson in Bellingham house fire

BELLINGHAM, Wash. — Bellingham Police Department (BPD) officers arrested a man for suspicion of arson in a residential fire 2 doors away from a Bellingham Fire Department station.

Bellingham Fire Department (BFD) personnel responded to a report of a fire at an occupied residence in the 1100 block of Billy Frank Junior Street on August 9th shortly after 11am. BFD Station #3 is located 2 doors away from the residence.

According to a police report submitted by prosecutors in Whatcom County Superior Court, Firefighters arrived to find a couch on fire on the front porch and fire had spread to the front of the residence.

A What-Comm 911 call receiver took a call about 11:10am from a male who claimed to have started the fire. He said he had lit a cigarette and “there must of been some sort of accelerant [on the couch], I don’t know.” He provided the call receiver with his name and clothing description and said he would meet police at the nearby fire station. When BPD officers checked the fire station, no one matching the description was there.

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The owners of the residence told officers they were familiar with the man and he had been evicted from the property.

A witness familiar with the man contacted an owner of the residence saying the man had left with a camp fuel can and later told an officer the man had returned after 10 minutes without the can.

While officers were interviewing the witness, the man returned wearing clothes that matched the description given the What-Comm 911 call receiver. He was taken into custody for having spat at the witness.

A search warrant was issued for the fire scene location and a burnt metal fuel can was found at the bottom of the front porch stairs. A gas analyzer confirmed the can had held petroleum-based fuel.

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The structure was deemed uninhabitable due to structural damage and the Red Cross was notified to assist the displaced residents.

The man, identified as Nathanael Jollie Clark, age 42, was arrested by Bellingham Police and booked into Whatcom County Jail charged with suspicion of 4th degree assault and felony 1st degree arson.

As of August 18th, Clark remained in custody pending being able to post a $100,000 bond.

In 2018, Clark was sentenced to 1 month in custody and a $500 fine after pleading guilty to a charge of 3rd degree assault stemming from a July 2018 incident where Clark had punched a Bellingham store security employee while being detained for shoplifting.

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