Investigators say a fire at the Hamilton House Apartments that forced dozens of people from their homes overnight was deliberately set.

Crews responded to the apartments, located near the intersection of Hamilton and Boone, just after midnight last night and found the laundry room on fire. As the fire grew here in the laundry room the people who ran by trying to get out of the building reported a strong smell of gasoline. Somebody tried to torch this place and picked a very dangerous time of night to do it.

The first ladder trucks on the fire scene set out to evacuate the Hamilton House's 42 units. Fortunately a lot of the tenants knew they had to go thanks to Janet Springer who discovered the fire.

 

"Was walking in the door and I smelled gas, opened the laundry room and it was filled with smoke, pulled the fire alarms, which incidentally were not connected for some reason and then started banging on doors getting people out," she said.

 

Because this fire was set in the laundry/electrical room the lines that operate fire alarms lost power.

The Hamilton House provides low income housing to its residents, many of them with disabilities. Given that most of them were sleeping firefighters feel fortunate none of them were hurt.

"In this case firefighters had to carry multiple people down several flights of stairs to get them to a safe area of refuge until the fire was extinguished," Spokane Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said.

STA provided a bus to get tenants out of the cold.

Investigators called for an accelerant sniffing dog after hearing from multiple residents about the smell of gasoline at the fire's point or origin.

"Well it was determined to be a purposely set fire. Accelerants were used to start the fire. We're still in the process of investigating the forensic evidence that was left and try to determine who was responsible," Schaeffer said.

The arsonist apparently left behind a container or ignition source they incorrectly believed would be consumed by the flames.

As part of their investigation in the fire, authorities will look into whether or not any tenants have had recent altercations with their Hamilton House landlord.

Since the building was occupied, investigators are pursuing the charge of first degree arson against the suspect.