Firefighters discover homicide scene at Woodland house fire

By Emily Gillespie, Columbian Breaking News Reporter

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Firefighters discovered a homicide scene after responding to an early morning fire Tuesday at a Woodland home.

Crews with Clark County Fire & Rescue responded to a reported fire at 2145 Dahlia St. at 4:35 a.m. and arrived to find flames coming from the house, fire agency spokesman Tim Dawdy said.

Crews quickly extinguished the blaze and found the body of a deceased man inside, authorities said.

Firefighters withdrew from the building and turned it over to the Woodland Police Department, who said that they are investigating the death as a homicide. The department added the fire appeared to have been set intentionally.

Authorities found propane tanks at the property and the bomb squad from the Portland Police Bureau responded, ensuring that the scene was safe.

Woodland police officers are assisting the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office in investigating the incident, though the agencies shared few details regarding the circumstances of the suspicious death.

“There was something that the officers and firefighters saw when they got in there that gave us reason to label it that way,”  Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office Chief Criminal Deputy Charlie Rosenzweig said.

The man’s identity and the cause and manner of his death will be determined by the Cowlitz County coroner.

Rosenzweig said that detectives had secured a search warrant at about noon Tuesday and would be on scene collecting evidence throughout the afternoon.

Whether or not there was a break-in at the residence is something detectives will be determining, Rosenzweig said.

Neighbors described the victim as a nice man who mostly kept to himself.

“I can’t think of anyone who would want to hurt him and possibly endanger the whole neighborhood,” said Connie Kingrey, who lives three doors down. “He’s an overall good guy … I hope they solve this quick.”

Ed Patterson, who lives across the street, said that the man collects things and has had break-ins in the past.

He said he’s not worried for himself because he believes that it’s an isolated incident, but said that the events still have an effect.

“It’s a sad thing for Woodland,” said Patterson, who moved to the neighborhood three months ago. “What I’ve observed about Woodland is that they care.”

Police are asking anyone with helpful information to contact Cowlitz County sheriff’s Sgt. Brad Thurman 360-577-3092. Tipsters who wish to remain anonymous can use a smart phone app the sheriff’s office uses called Tip411. Using the app, tipsters can find the sheriff’s office and send information anonymously.