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News / Clark County News

Woman accused of setting fire that damaged The Columbian’s building appears in court

Homeless woman, 37, held without bail until mental competency evaluation

By Becca Robbins, Columbian staff reporter
Published: April 16, 2024, 7:04pm
2 Photos
Kendra R. Meanus, 37, appears Tuesday in Clark County Superior Court on suspicion of second-degree arson, possession of a controlled substance and resisting arrest.
Kendra R. Meanus, 37, appears Tuesday in Clark County Superior Court on suspicion of second-degree arson, possession of a controlled substance and resisting arrest. (Becca Robbins/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

A homeless woman is accused of setting a fire Saturday that damaged the exterior of The Columbian’s building in downtown Vancouver.

Kendra R. Meanus, 37, appeared Tuesday in Clark County Superior Court on suspicion of second-degree arson, possession of a controlled substance and resisting arrest. She is being held without bail until a Thursday hearing to have her mental competency evaluated.

Court records indicate Vancouver police officers used force to arrest Meanus, but do not say what means of force officers used. Meanus was evaluated at Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center “as a precaution, due to the use of force” and was cleared, according to a jail pre-booking sheet.

The fire appeared to have started in a planter by The Columbian’s front door.

The Columbian’s publisher, Ben Campbell, said he’s glad no one was injured in the fire. The damage was limited to the area around the building’s front door, he said.

“We want to thank the Vancouver Fire Department and the Vancouver Police Department for their quick response to the emergency,” Campbell said in a statement. “As a preventative measure, we are greatly reducing the landscaping around our property to reduce the chance of a reoccurrence.”

Vancouver firefighters and police officers responded about 10:30 a.m. to The Columbian at 701 W. Eighth St. Firefighters quickly extinguished the flames. A deputy fire marshal determined the fire was incendiary, or intentionally set, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Witnesses told officers they saw a woman walking away from the area, and she had some sort of lighter or torch in her hand. One witness shared with officers a picture they took of the woman, court records state.

Police later checked nearby homeless encampments for the suspect, and they spotted a woman matching the suspect’s description a few blocks away. The woman identified herself to officers as Meanus, the affidavit states.

Officers said Meanus admitted to them she was at The Columbian’s building when the fire happened, but she said she did not start the blaze or know how it happened. She said she was at the building to gather dirt to use to put out fires at the encampment she lives in, according to court records.

When police tried to arrest Meanus, they said she walked away from them and then struggled when they grabbed her arms. Once officers arrested her, they found she had a glass pipe that field-tested positive for methamphetamine residue, the affidavit states.

Court records indicate Meanus was arrested about 10 a.m. Monday.

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