A man accused of setting his room on fire at the Quality Inn in Hazel Dell surrendered to authorities Saturday night after a four-hour standoff atop the fire-damaged building.
Angel M. Torres-Reyna, 41, of Vancouver climbed down a fire department ladder at about 8 p.m. and was arrested on suspicion of first-degree arson, after extensive discussions with negotiators through a Spanish-language interpreter, ending a tense standoff that began when the fire was reported at 3:50 p.m. Saturday at 7001 N.E. Highway 99.
Torres-Reyna had been staying at the hotel with Red Cross assistance since his Truman neighborhood apartment was damaged by fire Thursday.
On Saturday, firefighters arriving to a report of fire at the hotel saw flames coming from the roof and a man on the roof waving his arms as if appealing for help. But when firefighters propped a ladder against the wall so he could climb down to safety, the man kicked the ladder away, said sheriff’s Sgt. Duncan Hoss.
The man responded the same way when firefighters made a second attempt, and the ladder landed on and damaged a vehicle below, said Dave Taylor, assistant chief at Fire District 6.
Firefighters had the fire in what turned out to be Torres-Reyna’s room controlled in about 15 minutes. Torres-Reyna remained on the roof for another four hours.
At times, Torres-Reyna smoked cigarettes and looked out nervously at emergency responders and a crowd of hotel guests and bystanders gathered in the parking lots below. At other times, he sat down with knees bent, and sometimes, stretched his limbs as the hours dragged on.
A sheriff’s negotiator who speaks Spanish tried to talk Torres-Reyna down from the roof, and law enforcement personnel stood by with less-than-lethal tools if needed to disable him. A police dog was on scene in case he made it off the roof and ran.
Vancouver resident James Campbell and his two children, guests at the hotel, were among the crowd. The three were dressed in their pajamas.
Campbell’s 9-year-old daughter, Valerie, was carrying a kitten the family had just adopted.
“I was taking a nap,” Campbell said.
“We woke him up,” Valerie chimed in. “It’s a good thing we did.”
As the hours passed, the kitten’s pleas for food became increasingly urgent, as did the complaints of Valerie and 10-year-old brother Dallas Abernathy. Campbell said the kitten’s food was still inside the evacuated hotel building, blocked off by yellow crime tape.
At about 5:30 p.m., firefighters rolled a ladder truck beneath the man’s perch and raised the ladder to give him a way down if he wanted it, Hoss said.
“He can’t kick that one down,” he said.
The chill of the night
As night fell and the harvest moon rose behind him, Torres-Reyna folded his arms across his shirtless chest, apparently to ward off the cold.
Sheriff’s negotiators ramped up efforts to persuade the man down the ladder. Discussions via a mobile device at the top of the ladder became more intense, and authorities at the base of the ladder motioned repeatedly for the man to come down.
Just after 8 p.m., Torres-Reyna, looking distraught, relented and inched himself down the ladder. When his feet landed on the truck, the crowd cheered and whistled, and officers converged on him.
The fire damage was limited to the suite in which Torres-Reyna was staying and the attic of the hotel’s Building B.
Two fires in a week
The Red Cross had arranged for Torres-Reyna to stay at the hotel after his apartment at Willowbrook Apartments, 3612 N.E. 51st St., sustained fire damage Thursday.
Other tenants in the complex also were placed at the hotel, including Danielle Shupe.
“He checked in right before me,” Shupe said.
The county Fire Marshal’s Office is still investigating the Willowbrook fire, Hoss said.
Shupe said she heard fighting in Torres-Reyna’s unit at Willowbrook on Thursday, and then an explosion.
Jim Turley, a hotel manager, said about a dozen hotel guests who were displaced Saturday during the fire and standoff would be offered rooms in Building A.