Ballard dumpster fires under investigation

SEATTLE — A North Seattle neighborhood targeted. Seattle police and fire are warning residents in Ballard to be on the lookout for a firebug. Someone is targeting and torching dumpsters throughout the area.

Seattle Fire officials say several of the fires have been close to homes and businesses. One dumpster, behind a Wendy's Restaurant on 15th Ave. NW was the scene of one of the most recent fires, happening at 5:30 a.m. Friday. The fear is they're all arson.

“I'm concerned that it could set our building fire,” said Dr. Thomas Smith, who works in Ballard near one of the fire locations. He says he’s seen high-rise residence buildings rise up around his low-rise medical office.

He's worried a dumpster fire next to those buildings could cause bigger problems, “I had no idea this was going on.”

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One dumpster in an apartment building on NW 54th Street had burn marks on it and had melted rubber around the edges. A spokesperson for Seattle Fire Department said authorities are investigating all of them and that someone may have been setting the fires since Dec. 21, 2017.

Seattle fire department officials also said two of the most recent fires occurred on Jan. 4 and 5, 2018. The department has created an online interactive map that residents and businesses can view as they map of all arson dumpster fires reported in Ballard since late December 2017. The department also says each additional dumpster fire that occurs in the area will be added to the map.

The Seattle Fire Department has a list of simple things residents, and businesses can do to prevent the fires by minding their dumpsters.

They included measures that could be taken outside:

  1. Locate dumpsters and containers at least five feet away from walls and roof eave lines. Use only metal or metal-lined receptacles.
  2. Place locks on commercial dumpsters or keep in secured area. Locks may be available through your contracted service provider.
  3. Secure business and garage areas by locking doors and windows.
  4. Clean up wastepaper, grasses, weeds, litter, or anything that can burn from around buildings. Clear carport areas of all combustibles.
  5. Trim shrubbery from doors and windows to improve visibility.
  6. Install motion-sensor exterior lights.

They also had suggestions for minding dumpsters inside of buildings:

  1. Test fire and life safety systems, including fire extinguishers, to ensure they are working and in compliance with codes.
  2. Develop and practice a fire response plan.
  3. Keep exit ways clear of items which could slow evacuation efforts.

Laura Hall lives near one of the more recent fire scenes, and wonders who could be setting the fires on purpose, "I feel like my neighbors are not the ones setting dumpster fires so." The entire series of events was news to Hall who said she had not heard of the arson string, "there's someone setting them on fire? If there's someone looking shady, but yeah it's Seattle ...shady people everywhere."
In August 2016 KIRO 7 reported on a series of dumpster fires set in Crown Hill and Ballard, nearly four buildings burned down.

in July 2017 Seattle detectives investigated a series of fires set near homeless encampments on the Burke Gilman trail.

In the latest string some dumpster fires that have been set, some have already been removed - burn marks were all that were left on the outside of an auto shop near NW Ione Place and NW Russel Ave. after a dumpster was set on fire.

Smith wonders if the dumpster fires are a deliberate message, “we're going to make a scene, or we don't have a place to be, here deal with this. Probably vindictive in some sense.”

Another twist is that there is a fire station across the street from the Wendy's where one of the latest dumpster fires was set.

In fact four locations on the incident map were all a few blocks from the station.

Seattle fire and Police are asking people to call if they see anything suspicious.