Investigators: Tacoma pet store fire was no accident

TACOMA, Wash. -- Investigators say the Thursday night fire that could have killed dozens of animals at a Tacoma PetSmart was no accident.

The business was packed with people and pets Thursday at 6:20 p.m. when the fire broke out. Everyone, including a host of animals, made it safely out of the building.

Investigators spent much of Friday combing the area for clues about how -- and why -- the fire started. The fire marshal came to the conclusion the blaze was not accidental and has turned the investigation over to the Tacoma Police Department.

"Our investigator determined that there was enough evidence at the scene to call this a suspicious fire," said Joe Meincecke of the Tacoma Fire Department.

Investigators believe the fire started in the retail corner of the store, and employees say they saw dog beds in flames.

PetSmart customers were shocked to learn the fire was suspicious.

"That's not good," said customer Cathy Grinau. "Who would want to hurt animals? I don't understand that at all."

Staff members spent Friday canceling grooming appointments and turning away business as crews worked inside cleaning up smoke and water damage.

The only good news about the fire was that none of animals inside the store were hurt or killed.

"It involved a lot pets, different four- legged creatures, reptiles, birds, all kinds of things," Meincecke said.

Several cats from the Tacoma Humane Society were evacuated from the building, and eight dogs were rescued from the pet salon.

The reality of someone intentionally setting a fire inside a pet store has customers upset and outraged.

"Oh, that's very sad," said Lisa Haussler. "It really is. It's a pet store."

Investigators say the fire caused $35,000 in damages. The evacuated animals were moved to other PetSmart stores in the area, and the store hopes to be open for business by early next week.