Former Snoqualmie Inn Employee Charged in 2005 Fire

April 2, 2007

A fire at a bed-and-breakfast that had been in financial disarray has been blamed on a former events coordinator at the inn.

James Oliver Burrows, 59, of Fall City, Wash., is charged with first-degree arson and filing a fraudulent insurance claim for the May 19, 2005, fire that destroyed the Snoqualmie Inn.

Burrows denies the charges. “This is an amazing thing. I haven’t even heard from the prosecutor,” he said. “I’m not even a beneficiary of any of the insurance policies.”

The inn was built in 1989 and had 10 guest rooms and an Italian restaurant on the first floor.

Burrows said he bought cans of pesticide at a hardware store two weeks before the fire, and put one in the kitchen next to the deep fryer, according to a 15-page affidavit filed Wednesday in King County Superior Court. The other cans were sitting on a shelf above the fryer “and the wind must have blown through the window and knocked one can into the deep fryer and that it then exploded,” Burrows said.

He told investigators he was having coffee in a fireplace room when he heard “a bunch of explosions.”

Investigators determined that the fire began using cans of aerosol “bug bomb” that were placed in a deep fryer, according to court records.

According to weather conditions, winds were estimated at 8.7 to 20 mph, but trees and vegetation would have kept the wind from blowing the cans into the fryer, investigator Tom Devine said in court papers.

Photos of the inn that day also showed the kitchen windows were closed and that there was no shelf above the deep fryer.

“There were no accidental/natural causes for this fire; therefore it was an intentionally set fire,” Devine said.

Burrows allegedly placed the cans in the fryer, Devine said, and “after he left the kitchen, one or more of the bug bombs exploded, spraying hot oil and fire around the kitchen.” The fire then spread throughout the inn.

Investigators later found that the inn’s payroll checks bounced and other money problems developed, according to the affidavit. When asked about the finances, Burrows allegedly told detectives, “it sucks, it’s terrible,” Devine said.

Burrows later tried to file false insurance claims for as much as $11,000 for soap he said was lost in the fire, Devine said. He also submitted a claim for injuries to his back, neck and shoulders when he fell down stairs while alerting guests to the fire.

However, Devine said, no reports of the injuries were made to firefighters.

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