An arsonist burned down most of the structures in the North Queen Anne lumberyard David Gascoigne’s family built up over the past 60 years. Despite the $12 million in property damage that included the destruction of five structures near the Ship Canal, Gascoigne Lumber Company remains in business today.

“We have continue to be shipping and receiving, even though a majority of our buildings no longer exist,” said Gascoigne, who is operations manager for the longtime lumber company.

Gascoigne’s grandfather purchased the business in 1959, and his father started there in 1975, taking it over in 1986. Tom Davis later purchased Gascoigne Lumber Company, said Gascoigne, who plans to purchase the building with members of Davis’ family in the next decade or so.

“I have every plan to keep it in the family name, and I have two sons coming up under me,” he said.

Gascoigne said the lumber company would have had to move from its site in the 3500 block of Sixth Avenue West eventually, as it was outgrowing its space and finding it harder and harder to extend leases, with Seattle Pacific University looking to expand its campus.

The Nov. 10 four-alarm fire that destroyed four Gascoigne Lumber structures and one belonging to the defunct Northwest Millwork forced those relocation plans sooner than expected, he said.

“We’re not rebuilding here. We’ve already put together a letter of intent and have received terms and are processing papers with our lawyers on the old Everett mill,” said Gascoigne, referring to the 40,000-square-foot Everett Pad and Paper warehouse. “We should probably be taking all of our business to Everett before Christmas even.”

Gascoigne said he feels blessed by the way everything turned out, and gives the Seattle Fire Department a lot of credit for the lumber company remaining in business today. By using two fire boats to pump water from the Ship Canal at the main office and load-out facility, he said, the company’s computers and customer information were preserved.

“Had we not kept the office, I’m not so sure we’d be operating right now,” he said.

Gascoigne is working on a makeshift desk and using battery-powered lights in the west shed, which had been filled with inventory. Frank Lumber the Door Store bought all of that inventory following the fire, he said, clearing up room for Gascoigne Lumber Company to continue operating.

“We have a great customer base because the way we’ve built this business has been a very customer-friendly, handshake business,” Gascoigne said. “I think the insurance will cover us for the business interruption, but some of our items are not easy to get. We’re trying to make sure everyone’s got what they need.”

ATF recently announced it was putting up a $15,000 reward for any information that resulted in the arrest and conviction of the person who set the fire at the Gascoigne Lumber Company; the Arson Alarm Foundation is offering a $10,000 reward.

Gascoigne said he appreciates the reward, and obviously wants to get the person responsible off the streets, but he doesn’t understand why footage of the suspect hasn’t been released to the public to assist with identifying them.

Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins said during a Nov. 13 press conference that fire investigators used security footage to rule the lumberyard blaze an arson case. Gascoigne said that security footage came from Seattle Pacific University, but he has yet to see an image of the suspect released to the public.

As the operations manager, Gascoigne said, he worried when he received the call the night of Nov. 10 that the fire was somehow his fault. The lumber company had just passed a surprise inspection by its insurance provider two days prior. When investigators showed him the fire’s point of origin — an exposed shed with no electronics or mechanical components — he was also sure the fire was arson.

Seattle Fire determined that a Nov. 8 fire at the Elks Lodge No. 92, a mile from Gascoigne Lumber and near the Fremont Bridge, was caused by arson, as well, but Scoggins said on Nov. 13 any connection had not been determined.

Gascoigne said a heroin needle was found next to an enclosed fence the day after the lumberyard fire started, and that it hadn’t been there before.

There was an attempted arson case at the Seattle Gymnastics Academy in Ballard that also occurred last month, he said, where a man had placed pallets up against the building and attempted to set them on fire. Gascoigne said a needle was found inside the pallets, which makes him think there could be a connection.

“It kind of sounds like a call sign to me, but I’m not trying to be a private investigator,” he said.

The arson fire that burned down most of Gascoigne Lumber Company’s buildings was the first four-alarm fire in Seattle since 2010. Had the fire department not prevented the fire from spreading to the nearby Canal Marina, Gascoigne said he knows several people living on their boats there that could have lost their lives.

“We would have seen a lot of fatalities had the fire department not been there to keep the fire at bay from the marina,” he said.