Police: Anacortes man arrested in connection with 4 fires

Updated:

ANACORTES, Wash. —

A 43-year-old man was arrested Tuesday in connection with four fires in the Anacortes area, police said.

According to Anacortes police, officers and firefighters were sent to a car fire in the north basin area of Cap Sante Marina after 1 a.m.

A man reported that he had offered to let another man to sleep in the back of his pickup truck overnight while he slept in the cab.

When the owner of the pickup woke up, he smelled smoke and saw flames coming from the bed of his truck.

From a short distance away, he saw the other man, Steven Cooney, watching the fire.

The owner of the truck, who was not injured, called 911. When officers arrived, they found Cooney several blocks away and arrested him for investigation of first-degree attempted murder, two counts of first-degree arson and two counts of second-degree burglary.

Police described Cooney as a serial arsonist. They said he has a long history of offenses, including arson, going back to 2001.

Anacortes Police Detective Sgt. Chris Fuller said that Cooney told investigators he set the fire for kicks.

"It's a fascination for him," said Fuller. "He enjoys watching fires."

Investigators had been suspicious of Cooney since he was named as a possible suspect in a residential fire in the 900 block of 25th Street in March 2012.

He is also suspected of setting two recent fires in the Anacortes area. One was at Pilgrim Congregational Church on Feb. 28 and one was at the Salvation Army on Friday night.

The fire at Pilgrim Congregational Church caused a reported $80,000 in damage. The fire at the Salvation Army caused smoke damage and destroyed refrigerated food, affecting 30 families.

"We're going to be dealing with the cleanup and stuff for a while," Salvation Army Lt. Josh Boyd said about the fire. "We're just going to work around it because we want to keep helping people. The need doesn't stop, even if we have a problem in our building."

Cooney had been to the Salvation Army in the past for food, but Boyd said that he thought Cooney was angry with the Alcoholics Anonymous group that meets there.

Police said that after investigators picked him up on Tuesday, Cooney admitted to the four Anacortes-area fires.

"He obviously showed that he had no will power to refrain from these activities," said Fuller. "He's in and out of jail for other activities in the past and his activities pretty much coincide with starting right back up."