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Arsonist hits Olympia abortion clinic

Associated Press

OLYMPIA – Local and federal investigators have determined that a fire at an abortion clinic was intentionally set.

After sifting through the damage, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Olympia police and fire departments concluded the fire was started with incendiary materials on the roof, said Scott Thomasson, assistant special agent in charge of ATF’s Seattle division.

Thomasson, who estimated damage at $500,000, said he could not specify what type of flammable materials were used.

The early Sunday morning fire damaged the roof at the Eastside Women’s Health Clinic, causing heat, water and smoke damage in the building’s offices, Olympia Fire Capt. Kate McDonald said.

It happened while the clinic was not staffed. No one was injured.

Investigators were following several leads but had no suspects, Thomasson said.

Nancy Armstrong, one of the clinic’s owners, said the fire destroyed old medical instruments and some documents stored in an attic crawl space but did not damage patient records and will not put the clinic out of business.

Armstrong said the clinic has received no recent threats, though some people have aroused suspicion. The clinic has been picketed weekly for 20 years without any violence.

The clinic sees 30 to 40 patients a day. Staff members met outside with patients who showed up Monday and worked to reschedule their appointments. The clinic’s answering service was also rescheduling appointments.

There was no immediate word when the clinic might reopen, McDonald said.

Insurance adjusters still had to go through the building.

The only confirmed arson at an abortion clinic in the United States last year was at a women’s clinic in Lake Worth, Fla., in July, according to the National Abortion Federation.

An explosion in June 2001 outside a Tacoma medical clinic where a doctor performed abortions was investigated by the FBI. Damage was estimated at $6,000. The National Abortion Federation’s Web site indicated the case remained open Sunday.

Jan. 22 is the 32nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.

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