3-alarm fire in Edmonds strip mall being investigated as arson

EDMONDS, Wash. — An early morning fire on Saturday that badly damaged all businesses in an Edmonds strip mall is being investigated as arson.

The 911 calls began coming in at 5:35 a.m. Saturday that the Plum Tree Plaza was on fire.

The fire quickly went to three alarms. All of the 14 businesses suffered some damage.

From the start, there was some concern that these businesses might be targeted.

It is easy to imagine what South County firefighters saw as they approached the Plum Tree Plaza along Highway 99 in Edmonds.

“When the first crew got here, there were flames rolling out of the windows,” said Leslie Hynes.

The South County Fire spokeswoman says those flames were coming out of the Indonesian Market in the center of the strip mall and spreading quickly.

“So, we quickly went to a second alarm and then ended up at a second alarm,” Hynes said.

Indeed, fire crews from four neighboring communities ultimately joined the firefight.

“It was very early in the morning, you know,” said Susan Galvez. “Just wake up, and you see this huge blaze.”

Galvez and her son live in the motel behind the strip mall.

“When I saw it, it was pretty intense,” Adam Galvez said. “I mean, the flames were just really, really high in the sky. A lot of black smoke.”

“There wasn’t too much we could do except stand there and watch,” said Susan Galvez. “We were kind of afraid it was going to jump the fence.”

By early afternoon, investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had joined South County fire in investigating the cause.

The fire destroyed the Indonesian Market. But the 13 other businesses were damaged, too, as the smoke traveled through the attic that adjoins them.

“Well, it’s been a struggle for us as a result of the pandemic, obviously,” said George Yu, best friend of the owner of the Taste Rice Noodle restaurant. “Business was just starting to pick up. And we get hit with this. I mean, it’s tough.”

Those involved in the businesses here say the fire is a terrible blow. And they, too, wondered if they were a target.

“I mean, most of the business owners are Asian right here in this plaza,” said Miah Young, owner of Taste Rice Noodle.

They say Taste Rice Noodle had just reopened three weeks ago.

Now they are waiting to hear what caused the fire that has put them out of work once again.

According to Edmonds Police, evidence collected at the scene by the fire marshal and ATF suggests the fire was set intentionally. Edmonds detectives are continuing to work with the ATF on the investigation, including collecting surveillance footage from the area.

The Edmonds Police Department is asking anyone who may have information about the fire call the tip line at 425-771-0212 or email policetips@edmondswa.gov.