Tacoma escape room business recovering from fire after arson arrest

Robin Clark, the CEO of Freighthouse Station Escape Challenge in Tacoma, spent the day doing inventory of damage done to his escape room business, following a fire that ripped through his back wall on March 8. 

"There were plastic covers over these lights, which are completely burned out," said Clark. "The fire actually burned through the ceiling up here."

Tacoma Police said it was arson, releasing photos of the suspect, and eventually arresting a 31-year-old following a Crime Stoppers tip. 

"Once it got into here, it started burning behind the wall panels and caused dripping, burning plastic," said Clark.

Inside, he showed us some of the carefully-crafted escape rooms that were damaged, including one in which customers use an imaginary "time machine." Some of the carefully curated antique props were rusting due to water damage, and looked worse for wear. 

"We are trying to salvage everything we can," said Clark. "These are things that are hard to replace."

Although they've been scrubbing the floors, walls and ceilings, the smell of smoke lingers.

"We’ve been working really hard to get it up and running as fast as possible since the fire," said General Manager Finley Walker. 

Walker says they are about three to four weeks away from re-opening the new room in an area mostly spared from the fire. 

"This is going to be a vampire castle," said Walker. 

"I put all my life savings into keeping this thing open during the pandemic, and then this," said Clark.

Clark estimates the losses so far at $80,000. He says the business had finally gotten into the black after COVID. Though he thought about giving up, he's decided to fight to reopen.   

"It’s more like a giant family, and if I throw up my hands and say ‘I quit,’ it’s like leaving your family," said Clark.

"It definitely means a lot to me, I’ve worked here five to six years now, I worked my way up from host to general manager, I don’t know what I’d do if we closed the business," said Walker.

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The suspect hasn't been formally charged yet. He is expected in court Thursday afternoon.