SEATTLE — The Seattle Fire Department reported a three-alarm fire Thursday morning at a construction site in Seattle’s Beacon Hill neighborhood was intentionally set and is one of 10 fires in a recent string of arsons plaguing the neighborhood and worrying investigators.
The Sturgus Avenue South construction site fire, the scene of an earlier arson in April, caused an estimated $5 million in damage Thursday, according to SFD, and forced surrounding neighbors out of their homes as nearly 100 firefighters worked to put it out.
At a news conference Thursday, Seattle fire Chief Harold Scoggins said before the three-alarm fire, firefighters responded to the nearby Rainier Farmer Market that had also been intentionally set on fire that same morning at around 3:15 a.m.
“There has been an uptick in fire activity in this area that causes us concern,” said Scoggins, who said the recent arsons could be connected. No arrests had been made as of Thursday. “It’s hard to say right now, but there are trends,” he said.
Firefighters said four fires have been set at the Rainier Farmer Market in a little over a month, including Thursday’s that destroyed the business. KIRO 7 obtained a surveillance video that showed fireworks being lit inside the farmers market by an arsonist on Sunday.
“Mad, confused; I thought somebody was trying to get me out,” said Rainier Farmer Market owner Long Nguyen in an interview with KIRO 7. “During the fire, there was another fire, and I thought, ‘OK, maybe I’m not the target.’”
KIRO 7 interviewed Nguyen last year when he was the repeated target of burglars. He said Thursday that he feels crime has got worse and had to lay off his three employees because of the most recent arson that destroyed more than $30,000 in inventory alone.
“Today I helped them fill out unemployment,” said Nguyen. “It’s killing me.”
“Where do you go from here?” asked KIRO 7′s Michael Spears.
“Get the hell out of Seattle,” said Nguyen.
Seattle firefighters said three fires had been set at a nearby U-Haul store last month and that an earlier fire was intentionally started at the Sturgus Avenue South construction site back in April, with a car torched on that same street in July.
Investigators said beyond the 10 recent arsons at businesses, the construction site and car, there have been many more smaller fires intentionally set in recent weeks in the area. Firefighters said they’re now handing out flyers to neighbors warning them about the arsons.
Eric Rombokas, who could see the three-alarm fire from his home, said, “50 feet from our house, the bathrooms of the local park down there were burned down in the timeline they’re talking about.”
SFD is recommending neighbors to not only test their fire alarms but also to keep trash bins, a frequent target of arsonists, away from homes. It also advised businesses to lock their dumpsters or keep those in a secured area.
The Arson Alarm Foundation is offering an award from its annual $10,000 award fund for anyone with information that leads to the arrest or conviction of those responsible for setting the fires.
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