A New Year's Eve celebration at a crowded Seattle gay bar went terrifyingly awry after an unknown suspect allegedly set fire to the venue shortly after midnight.
As King 5 News is reporting, a staircase at Neighbours in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood was doused in gasoline and set aflame, bringing a popular New Year's Eve drag show to an immediate halt. The fire was extinguished after nearly 700 revelers were evacuated to a nearby alley and no injuries were reported in the blaze, but Neighbours patrons and staff were nonetheless left shaken by the incident.
"It's not just a bar or just a nightclub," Social Outreach Seattle founder Shaun Knittel, who was at the club on Dec. 31, told KOMO News. "And whoever these jerks are there's going to be a good number that makes sure they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
Local drag performer Aleksa Manila posted the following image to her Instagram account following the incident:
"Nothing's gonna stop us from celebrating diversity & providing a safe space for everyone," Aleksa wrote.
A security guard later found an empty gasoline can at the top of the stairway, The Seattle Times is reporting. Although the motive for the fire was no immediately clear, investigators and other officials say the possibility of the fire having been a hate crime has been raised.
“This could potentially have been much worse,” Seattle Fire Department spokesman Kyle Moore told the Times. “You have an establishment full of patrons and an intentionally set fire. That’s a very dangerous situation.”