Investigators at the Vancouver Fire Marshal’s Office have been busy this week investigating numerous fires that have ranged in damage from scorching vegetation to displacing families from their homes.
The uptick led the agency to send out a press release reminding Vancouver residents that a burn ban remains in effect and illegal burns could result in citations. The agency has already issued a $500 citation and said that it’s prepared for more.
As extremely dry and windy conditions persist, firefighters have been sent to a number of vegetation fires across the city in recent weeks. Several of those fires were close together, within a tight time frame, which has led investigators to suspect arson.
Between 11:23 p.m. Wednesday and about 4 a.m. Thursday, Vancouver firefighters responded to four fires that are now under investigation as possible arson incidents, Vancouver Fire Marshal Heidi Scarpelli said. No injuries were reported in the incidents, but they caused plenty of damage.
“It’s currently unknown if any of these fires are related to the previous rash of fires that occurred downtown in May,” Scarpelli said.
The first blaze involved a section of a wooden fence next to a house and a garage at 3014 N.E. 133rd Court. Investigators estimate it caused about $2,000 worth of damage.
Then, just before 1 a.m. Thursday, firefighters responded to a report of a 1995 Ford Ranger on fire at 11325 S.E. Mill Plain Blvd., less than 3 miles away. The fire did $1,700 damage to the truck, and police arrested a suspect in connection with the incident, Scarpelli said.
About two and a half hours later, crews responded to report of a 1990 Ford Econoline on fire at the intersection of West 16th Street and Kaufman Avenue on the west side of Vancouver. From the van’s contents, investigators gathered that someone had been living in it. The fire caused about $1,800 in damage.
Finally, crews doused out a burning trash container around 4 a.m. at 1110 W. 17th St., immediately around the block from the previous fire. The burn did about $5,000 damage, Scarpelli said.
Fire officials have also been investigating a fire that burned 4.7 acres at Frenchman’s Bar Regional Park Tuesday. The fire prompted a joint investigation by the Vancouver Fire Marshal’s Office and the state Department of Natural Resources. A pole barn worth about $15,000 was destroyed in the evening blaze, Scarpelli said.
The cause of the fire hasn’t been determined, with investigators saying they can’t rule out human causes, including improperly discarded smoking materials. Anyone who has information on that fire is asked to call the agency’s tip line at 360-607-7991.
The cause of a two-alarm house fire on Sunday that displaced five people has been officially ruled undetermined, Scarpelli said.
The fire, at 1901 S.E. 97th Ave., started in an outside garage area near some trash, and caused an estimated $150,000 in damage, fire officials said.
Another brush fire started by someone using a propane torch to remove weeds did not result in any citation or charges, Scarpelli said. Two homes in the Old Evergreen Highway neighborhood sustained an estimated $750,000 damage. Scarpelli said the fire was accidentally set and there was no indication of malice.
Until further notice, all outdoor burning — including recreational fires — is prohibited under the burn ban. Outdoor cooking with propane and charcoal barbecues is still allowed, but Scarpelli urges everyone to use extreme caution for such activities.
“It’s important to recognize that while there is a complete burn ban in place, our citizens need to be extremely vigilant about other potential ignition sources, including properly discarding smoking materials, using barbecues safely and not using powered equipment that can produce sparks near dry vegetation,” Scarpelli said in the press release.