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Propane Explosion Sets Seattle Homeless Encampment Ablaze

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A fireball engulfed several trees and tents along I-5 in downtown Seattle on Friday morning inside a well-known homeless encampment.

The property is a Washington State Department of Transportation right of way, and witnesses say they heard propane tanks exploding and saw “a bunch of black smoke.”

Fire crews responded immediately to extinguish the flames. Authorities say one man suffered injuries from the fire and checked himself into Harborview Medical Center.

“We need to get these people off the streets,” one witness tells me.

A hospital spokesperson says the victim is notorious graffiti vandal Casey Cain, also known as EAGR. His tag was found on a sink left standing amid the wreckage.

The 36-year-old was out on bail for vandalism related charges. 

The Seattle Police Department arson bomb squad is investigating the circumstances of the fire.

“I was asleep, I didn’t see anything, I didn’t hear anything,” says one woman who was at the scene.

There are two entrances to the encampment, a broken fence near Harborview at the corner of 7th Avenue and James Street, or an opening off of Yessler Way.

Dozens of propane tanks litter the ground of the encampment, and scavengers are already picking through the debris.

One man shows me a handful of wires, “from all the generators they were running in here,” and tells me “they had wires, cameras, all kinds of sh*t.”

There are more than 20 tents and structures still remaining on the site.

No comment has been released from Governor Jay Inslee or Mayor Bruce Harrell. A WSDOT spokesperson referred me back to Seattle Police.

Another massive fire broke out earlier this year in this same encampment. Outreach workers have been here numerous times, but it remains unclear when WSDOT plans to move in and shut it down for good. 


Multiple sources tell me this past Friday’s inferno in a problematic homeless encampment along I-5 in downtown #Seattle was related to a DRUG TURF WAR. Apparently, two fellas living in the camp were selling drugs out of tents. They got into a beef and then one of them retaliated by throwing an “accelerant,” which set off the propane tanks. Notorious graffiti vandal Casey Cain, who also goes by EAGR, was badly injured in the fire. Unclear if he was directly involved in this dispute. Seattle Police Dept Arson Bomb Squad investigating.

Jonathan Choe

Journalist and Senior Fellow, Center on Wealth and Poverty
Jonathan Choe is a journalist and Senior Fellow with Discovery Institute's Center on Wealth and Poverty, covering homelessness issues for its Fix Homelessness initiative. Prior to joining Discovery, Choe spent several years as one of the lead reporters at KOMO-TV, consistently the top rated television station in Seattle. His in depth stories on crime and deep dive investigations into the homeless crisis led to measurable results in the community, including changes in public policy. Choe has more than two decades of experience in television news behind the scenes and in front of the camera for ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS, and Tribune. He has also been nominated and honored with multiple industry awards including an Emmy. Choe spent several years teaching classes on emerging media and entrepreneurship to under privileged youth in inner city Chicago. As an independent journalist, Choe also contributes regularly to the Mill Creek View and Lynnwood Times and has reported on exclusive stories in the past year for Daily Wire and The Postmillennial.