Police now investigating string of 15 Tacoma-area arsons
Firefighters in Tacoma were busy with two large fires early Wednesday, which reportedly came on the heels of a number of other fires in the area starting on Tuesday night. As of Thursday morning, 15 fires have been reported in the area in 48 hours. Police are investigating these as arson.
By the end of the day on Wednesday, there were 11 fires in Tacoma and one in Ruston under investigation, all of which happened between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. Luckily, no one was reported to be injured in any of the fires.
There were extra Tacoma police officers on patrol overnight into Thursday “to enhance community safety, help deter further arsons and to respond to any criminal activity that does occur.”
But as of Thursday morning, the number of fires suspected to be arson rose to 15 after crews responded to three more fires Wednesday night into Thursday.
The building with the worst damage was from an early-morning fire reported Wednesday at a home on North Gove Street, in the 4600 block. Firefighters arrived on scene around 2:23 a.m.
The fire had started in the attic of a single-family residence, and flames were coming through the roof. Crews were able to establish a water supply from a nearby hydrant and start an attack on the fire. A ladder crew was used to apply water to the attic. As of 2:45 a.m., the fire was out.
Lieutenant Pete Jasper, a Tacoma fire investigator, said Wednesday that they are fairly certain the more than a dozen recent fires were all arson, and likely the work of one person or group. That’s mostly because they all occurred on the same night, one right after the other.
Jasper says the house on Gove Street can be salvaged, but will need a new roof and extensive repairs.
Jack Kelly lives next door to the house and told KIRO Newsradio reporter Nicole Jennings that he could feel the heat from the fire in his living room. He believes he knows why it was a target.
“It’s because there was nobody there. I assume somebody probably just walks around these neighborhoods at night,” he said.
“They’re going to get whoever is doing it — it just takes time,” he added.
The string of arsons has some Tacoma residents worried for their own safety. KIRO Newsradio’s Nicole Jennings observed Thursday that the street in front of one of the damaged homes drew onlooked, who seemed to be assessing the danger to determine how to protect their own homes.
Billy Frederick, who was passing by the house with his wife, says they are worried for their daughter who lives in the area with family. He says they have taken precautions at her house, installing security and clearing any debris that could easily catch on fire.
“People could die, so I hope the person who is responsible for this is aware that they could take a life, and that has so many repercussions and hurts so many people deeply,” he said.
Lisa Roberts lives on one of the streets that has been targeted, about 12 blocks from the burned house. She says she packed up a bag of essentials in case her shed is targeted, and that her husband removed any items of value from the shed.
Roberts also says she has been waking up in the middle of the night and turning her porch light on and off as a deterrent. They plan to get a security camera, and are keeping in close contact with neighbors.
A contractor from Renton, William Welsome, who was boarding up some of the damaged houses told KIRO Newsradio that he has seen the work of arsonists before. In his experience, it takes about three or four weeks before the person is caught. In that time, Welsome said, the arsonists often get bolder, moving from sheds and outbuildings to homes.
Tacoma Fire says it has nothing new to report yet on who could be responsible for the crimes.
Tacoma police identified the time and place of the initial eight arsons as follows:
- 7:48 p.m. 600 block of S. Trafton
- 8:10 p.m. 2000 block of S. 8th
- 8:27 p.m. 600 block of S. State
- 11:05 p.m. 5100 N Pearl
- 1:24 a.m. 4700 block of N. Orchard
- 2:06 a.m. 4600 N Gove
- 3:08 a.m. 3700 block of N. Cheyenne
- 3:56 a.m. 3700 block of N. Cheyenne
Three more arsons were discovered to have occurred within the same time period — Tuesday into Wednesday — by employees coming into work. At these sites, there was only minor damage. Arson investigators responded. Those three locations were:
- 4000 block of 6th Avenue
- 1500 block of S. Union Avenue
- 3200 block of S. D St.
The three fires Wednesday night into Thursday in Tacoma are as follows:
- Just after 7:30 p.m. 700 block of S. 56th St.
- Around 9:30 p.m. 500 block of S. 78th St.
- Just before 12:30 a.m. 1000 block of S. Mildred St.
Anyone with information about these crimes is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.
KIRO Newsradio’s Nicole Jennings contributed to this report.