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Officials investigating at least 16 suspected arsons in north Tacoma area since Tuesday night

Investigators continue to look into the fires for potential arson and have yet to identify any suspects.

TACOMA, Wash. — Police are searching for a possible arson suspect that they believe could be responsible for as many as 16 fires in the north Tacoma area since Tuesday night.

The Tacoma Fire Department (TFD) said the proximity of the fires and the time of them occurring so close together Tuesday night through Thursday morning is leading investigators to view them as suspicious in nature.

No injuries have been reported from any of the fires.

Most of the fires happened on the exterior of homes, with two occurring at separate carports in Tacoma, according to the Tacoma Police Department (TPD).

Three more fires reported Wednesday night and early Thursday morning are being investigated as arsons, according to TPD spokesperson Wendy Haddow. One of the fires Wednesday night was a shopping cart full of items, and the other two were vehicle fires.

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It is currently unknown if the three recent fires are connected to the fires that started since Tuesday night, but all 16 are being investigated as possible arson.

The following is a preliminary timeline of when each fire was first reported in the suspected string of arsons occurred:

Tuesday

  • 7:48 p.m.: 600 block of South Trafton Street in Tacoma
  • 8:10 p.m.: 2000 block of South 8th Street in Tacoma
  • 8:20 p.m.: 200 block of South 7th Street in Tacoma
  • 8:27 p.m.: 600 block of South State Street in Tacoma
  • 11:05 p.m.: 5100 block of North Pearl Street in Tacoma

Wednesday

  • 12:06 a.m.: 5300 block of North Bennett Street in Ruston
  • 1:24 a.m.: 4700 block of North Orchard Street in Tacoma
  • 2:20 a.m.: 4600 block of North Gove Street in Tacoma
  • 3:08 a.m.:3700 block of North Cheyenne Street in Tacoma
  • 3:56 a.m.: 3700 block of North Cheyenne Street in Tacoma
  • 7:30 p.m.: 700 block of South 56th Street in Tacoma
  • 9 p.m.: 500 South 78th Street in Tacoma

On Wednesday afternoon, the TPD said three more possible arsons occurred overnight and were discovered by employees arriving at work. Those fires caused minor damage and were located on the 4000 block of 6th Avenue, 1500 block of South Union Avenue and the 3200 block of South D Street.

Thursday

  • 12:30 a.m.: 1000 block of South Mildred Street in Tacoma

According to a TFD battalion chief, the N Gove Street and N Cheyenne Street fires were suspected to be connected due to their close proximity, but at least nine of the fires are within less than 10 miles of each other.

When crews arrived at the N Gove Street fire, they found smoke and flames coming through the roof of a single-family residence. A ladder crew initiated aerial operations and attacked the fire from above to the attic. The fire was out shortly after 2:40 a.m.

One of the fires on N Cheyenne Street was in a detached garage in an alley near residences. Crews pulled two hose lines to attack the flames and had the fire knocked down by 3:35 a.m.

Agents with the local Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are helping the TPD and TFD to investigate the fires in order to establish some connection and identify a potential suspect.

Tacoma police added extra patrols to watch for suspicious activity related to the arson cases, according to Tacoma police spokesperson Wendy Haddow.

Ruston police are also conducting additional patrols. 

Additional factors that point to possible arson have not been disclosed by the TFD due to the case still being under investigation. 

Homeowner Brad Harp, who lives in one of the neighborhoods where some of the fires broke out, said he was lucky his home did not get too much damage.

Harp said he thought he heard a muffled explosion around 3 a.m. Wednesday but didn’t think much of it and tried to go back to sleep when he was woken up by his neighbor, who also heard the sound and noticed through his kitchen window a campfire-size fire burning at the stairwell of the Harps’ home.

“It's upsetting, you know, to realize that somebody tried to burn your house down with you in it,” said Harp. 

Firefighters who were responding to the other fire two doors down and arrived at Harp’s in time to put the small fire out with a garden hose. 

Harp noted that when he opened the basement door for better access for the firefighters, he noticed something strange. 

“Opened up the door and there was just kind of an overwhelming smell of lighter fluid at that point,” said Harp.

Detectives are asking for the helping the public's help in solving these crimes and for anyone with information or video surveillance regarding these crimes to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.

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