Fire set in Renton high-rise hotel being used as shelter

RENTON, Wash. — One person was arrested after a fire was set in a high-rise hotel that’s being used as a shelter in Renton.

Shortly before noon on Nov. 25, Renton firefighters were called to a fire on the sixth floor of the King County operated shelter at the Red Lion.

Fire crews found a large amount of smoke on the sixth floor and five people in wheelchairs on the fifth floor who were trapped an unable to evacuate.

Firefighters, with the help of the sprinkler system, put out the fire quickly, resulting in limited damage to the room and surrounding area.

Renton police and fire investigators found the fire was started on the floor of room 614 and included the burned remains of a cardboard box, a pile of papers, bedding and a fold out bed cushion.

A burned roll of toilet paper found sitting on top of the TV is believed to have been used to light the fire, which spread from the papers to the carpeting and bedding and then to the cushion.

Firefighters said it generated enough heat to turn on the fire sprinkler head directly above the area of the fire.

Investigators said the 46-year-old resident of the room had made threats to burn down the building earlier in the day and was arrested by Renton police for investigation of arson.

“This fire had every potential to be deadly, based on the current use of this hotel as a shelter and the ongoing fire and life safety concerns we have expressed.  Since being advised of its change in use we have repeatedly expressed concern around the ability to evacuate residents – and this fire demonstrated exactly what those issues are – we had five residents in wheelchairs stuck on the fifth floor during an active fire that required firefighters to evacuate them,” said Renton Regional Fire Authority Chief Roy Gunsolus.

Renton fire officials said other issues at the shelter include exits being chained shut, people not evacuating during emergencies, and tampering with fire and life safety systems.