From our sister site The White Center Blog:

By Nicholas Johnson

An early morning fire that ravaged several downtown White Center businesses July 5 has been reclassified as arson, and a King County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson says investigators have yet to establish a motive.

“We exclude nothing in the investigative process, and any motive will be the product of our investigation,” said sheriff’s office spokesperson Sgt. Tim Meyer.

New evidence discovered Friday morning in the basement of The Lumber Yard Bar, known as the first gay bar in White Center, prompted investigators with the KCSO Fire Investigation Unit to reclassify the blaze from accidental to arson.

The 2-alarm fire that destroyed or damaged eight businesses was initially thought to have been caused by an electrical issue in the basement of the bar, which had experienced a power outage the day prior to the fire.

Michale Farrar, co-owner of the bar, said he discovered the new evidence Friday morning in the basement, which had been flooded during the fire, then he contacted sheriff’s office investigators so they could make their own assessment.

“As things dry out, we are discovering more clues,” Farrar said.

Citing the active and open investigation, Sgt. Meyer said he could not describe the nature of the new evidence.

“Our focus is protecting the integrity of that evidence so we can provide the businesses and residents of the area with the best investigation possible,” Sgt. Meyer said.

Farrar, however, said he believes the new evidence suggests the arson was a hate crime, especially when considered in the context of other recent events.

“We had a break-in about a month ago,” Farrar said. “There has been anti-gay tags on our windows in the last week. There is evidence to suggest that they are all connected.”

In a social media post Friday, Farrar also said he believes the arson was “most likely” a hate crime.

“What these individuals did not only impacted the LGBTQI community, it destroyed 7 other businesses that reflect the diversity of our neighborhood White Center,” Farrar wrote on Instagram alongside a photo of a sign – which was posted to the front door of the burned-out, boarded up business – that declared the fire an arson and advertised a $10,000 award fund.

Anyone with information about the fire is being urged to call 1-800-55-ARSON.

For his part, Farrar is committed to working with the sheriff’s office “to get justice for all those affected by this,” he said.

“This will not deter us from rebuilding in the White Center neighborhood.”