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Friday, March 7, 2008 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Builders walk through ashes of Street of Dreams arson

Seattle Times staff reporter

Todd Lockie stood outside what had been his most luxurious creation — a nearly 5,000-square-foot masterpiece of hardwoods, granite and copper nestled in a quiet Snohomish County cul-de-sac — and stared, bewildered, through the charred front-window frames.

The Snohomish homebuilder is trying to figure out how he can afford to rebuild.

Lockie and fellow homebuilders Tim McCormack and Grey Lundberg made their first appearance last summer on the opulent Seattle Street of Dreams circuit with their nearly $2 million masterpieces. On Thursday, three days after authorities say an arsonist torched most of the cul-de-sac, the three had their first chance to explore the rubble.

Lundberg said authorities told him that whoever set the blazes likely threw gasoline or another accelerant on combustibles near the homes.

While the FBI and officials with The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms declined to comment about the investigation Thursday, Lockie said FBI agents told him that they have some suspects in mind.

Lundberg said the FBI has seized video surveillance from cameras posted on the house next to his.

McCormack said his four-bedroom craftsman, called "Tamarack," which is next to Lundberg's home, narrowly escaped damage.

"The bad guys tried to light us on fire; they just didn't succeed," said McCormack, president of Waterstone Homes. He declined to go into details about the failed arson attempt.

Lockie, president of Lockie Homes, said he is only now realizing that he didn't have an insurance policy large enough to completely cover the destruction. But he, Lundberg and Steve Pak, of Metropolitan Design and Construction, the third builder whose dream house was destroyed, plan to rebuild.

"If it doesn't get rebuilt, the people who did this won," Lundberg said, as he watched a salvage crew comb through the rubble. "What an incredible waste this is."

As Lundberg spoke, Bob Kreibel, who oversaw construction on "The Urban Lodge," yelled out his discoveries in the hole where a 4,000-square-foot luxury home stood days before.

"The chandelier," Kreibel hollered. "The sink from the powder room!"

Kreibel, who worked on the project daily for seven months, compared what he was feeling with that of losing a relative.

While Lundberg and his crew from Grey Lundberg/CMI Homes were salvaging what they could, McCormack and an electrician were yanking valuables out of his home. McCormack said theft is now a concern.

McCormack said he is certain the fires will keep potential home buyers from the neighborhood and the Tamarack will remain on the market.

"I guess there has got to be a silver lining," McCormack said. "I just don't know what it is."

Federal arson investigators are analyzing a banner left behind amid the nearly $7 million worth of damage at the Street of Dreams site near Maltby. The banner, which read "Built Green? Nope black!" and "McMansions in RCDs r not green," referring to rural cluster development, might resemble the banner left at a 2006 Camano Island house arson, the FBI said on Tuesday.

Investigators will examine the banner for DNA samples, fibers and other clues.

Though the banner claimed that the fires were the work of the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), a militant environmental underground group with cells that during the past decade have repeatedly claimed credit for arsons against new housing developments and other targets, federal investigators have not pinned the blazes on the group.

On Thursday, Briana Waters, a 32-year-old violin teacher from California, was found guilty of two counts of arson for the 2001 fire at the University of Washington's Center for Urban Horticulture. The ELF claimed credit for that blaze.

Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or jensullivan@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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