Juveniles ‘possible suspects’ in Magnolia arson, not connected to other fires

About a week ago, we told you about a fire set in an abandoned building on Fort Lawton in Discovery Park. It was the latest in a series of unsolved arson cases in Magnolia that have some similarities to Ballard’s dumpster fires.

This afternoon Seattle Police said they have identified and interviewed two juveniles as “possible suspects” in the case. But the Arson Bomb Squad says it does not believe the juveniles are connected to any other suspicious fires.

So it looks like this latest Magnolia fire — which was on January 21st — may not be connected to the unsolved cases in Magnolia or the dumpster arson cases in Ballard.

However, Seattle Police says it remains “an active and on-going investigation.”

(Photo of the Fort Lawton fire from KOMO News. See more here).

With Ballard fires still unsolved, Magnolia has its own string of arson cases

After a string of 21 dumpster fires in the Ballard area — including one on Phinney Ridge and another in Magnolia — the arsons have mysteriously stopped. The last fires were set on the weekend of January 6th, and Seattle Fire tells us there are no new cases since then. Investigators are mum on any details.

Then on Sunday night in Magnolia, a blaze in a vacant auditorium on Fort Lawton attracted a huge fire response, including many firefighters from Ballard. Seattle Fire has concluded that it was intentionally set.

“This was the first arson fire in Magnolia that we have had in a while” other than the dumpster fire earlier this month, Seattle Fire spokeswoman Kristin Tinsley told My Ballard. She’s referring to a string of unsolved fires in Magnolia last year — 13 in all. The fire on Sunday night makes 14.

“They have mostly been to outside shrubbery/hedges, recycle bins, etc.,” Tinsley explained in an email. Two of the fires spread to nearby structures.

Here’s a map of the Magnolia fires:

Similar to Ballard, Seattle Fire urged Magnolia residents to pull dumpsters away from buildings, install exterior lighting and employ other safety measures.

That makes a string of 14 fires in Magnolia and another 21 in Ballard, 35 unsolved fires in all — with lots of similarities. Are they the act of a single arsonist? That’s unclear, and Seattle Fire refers all investigative questions to Seattle Police’s Arson and Bomb Squad, which has yet to report on any new developments. We’ll keep you updated…

Lots of dumpsters still in dangerous spots around Ballard area

Update Tuesday AM: No new fires overnight.

Earlier: The dumpster arsonist(s) may be taking the day off after a string of 21 fires — no new fires so far since last night — but the danger is still very real for Ballard and surrounding neighborhoods.

This photo above of Sunday night’s fire behind the Hi Life in Ballard illustrates how big these fires can get (photo shared by @curtisdickie), putting nearby buildings at risk of catching fire. Saturday night’s blaze on 85th ignited the side of the building shared by Stacia’s Pizza and Taqueria Tequila, and a few other buildings have been scorched by the fires.

But even with the risk, it doesn’t take long driving around the neighborhood to see lots of dumpsters still pushed up against buildings and under overhangs and even apartment decks. Here are a couple examples from Ballard and Fremont:

Seattle Fire is urging neighbors to pull dumpsters at least 5 feet away from buildings and overhangs and lock them up. If your apartment manager hasn’t done it, then contact them. If that doesn’t work, you may want to consider re-positioning the dumpster yourself.

Because it’s only a matter of time before one of these small fires turns into a big fire, endangering the lives of those inside.

We’re continuing to monitor Seattle Fire dispatch for new fires, and we’re posting more frequent updates on Twitter. If you see a fire — or hear lots of sirens — please send us a tip at tips@myballard.com or ping @myballard on Twitter.

Here’s Seattle Fire’s full list of precautions:

  • Locate dumpsters and containers at least five feet away from walls and roof eave lines. Use only metal or metal-lined receptacles.
  • Place locks on commercial dumpsters or keep in secured area. Locks may be available through your contracted service provider.
  • Secure business and garage areas by locking doors and windows.
  • Clean up wastepaper, grasses, weeds, litter, or anything that can burn from around buildings. Clear carport areas of all combustibles.
  • Trim shrubbery from doors and windows to improve visibility.
  • Install motion-sensor exterior lights.
  • Test fire and life safety systems, including fire extinguishers, to ensure they are working and in compliance with codes.
  • Develop and practice a fire response plan.
  • Keep exit ways clear of items which could slow evacuation efforts.

If you see a fire or even suspicious circumstances, call 911. If you have any information related to one of the previous fires, call SPD investigators at 206-684-8980. You can also contact the Arson Alarm Foundation Hotline at 1-800-55-ARSON or arsonalarm.org. An award may be provided, and you can remain anonymous.