Eight more weekend dumpster fires has police searching for arsonist

Police and firefighters could have a serial arsonist on their hands.

In the past few weeks, they responded to dumpster fires across Ballard, Magnolia, Interbay and Phinney Ridge-- including 4 fires on Sunday.

Seattle Fire Department spokeswoman Kristin Tinsley said there have been 22 fires since December 21st.

One of the four dumpster fires on Sunday happened about 2 p.m. at Red Mill Burgers in Phinney Ridge.

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“At first it just looked like smoke. Then 20 seconds later coming back round the corner, there were flames shooting up and crazy,” said Alan Olson, a manager at Red Mill. He says the dumpster belongs to Starbucks next door.

Olson said after the flames died down, he realized it was likely the latest target, of suspected serial dumpster arsonist.

“It puts a lot of people in danger,” Olson said.

The Seattle Fire Department created an interactive map of all the dumpster fires – some of them, investigators have confirmed to be arson.

“We’ve seen 22 in this targeted area. That is a larger area than normal which is why it caught our attention,” Tinsley said.

Of the 22 fires, eight of them happened on Saturday and Sunday – four per day.

“Why would someone want to light dumpsters on fire?” asked Adriana Rodriguez, who lives in Ballard and smelled one of the fires near her gym Sunday at Northwest 57th Street and 24th Avenue Northwest.

Another dumpster fire happened about 4 p.m. behind the Hi-Life restaurant near Northwest Market Street and Russell Ave Northwest. A manager said the flames shot 15 feet in the air.

Surveillance video just shared on Sunday with KIRO 7 shows fire crews squashing flames at a dumpster near Carter Subaru on January 4th.

“It’s dangerous. It’s just dumpsters but it can catch on something else, there’s houses behind here, there’s a wood fence right here,” Olson said.

The Seattle Police Department’s arson and bomb squad is investigating. Detective Patrick Michaud says investigators are looking for at least one suspect right now, but the identity of the suspect has not been confirmed.

Olson says when police interviewed employees after the fire Sunday, they got a suspect description.

“We had people in front that had seen him matching that description,” Olson said.

He says the man, ordered just a lemonade, and paid with a credit card – then grabbed a bunch of brown paper bags.

“That seemed kind of fishy,” Olson said. “We were able to look up the order and we saw he used a credit card.”

It could be a clue in cracking the identity of the serial dumpster arsonist.

“Hopefully if it was a suspect, we’re able to get a handle on it before someone gets hurt,” Olson said.

Seattle Police said Sunday night they have not arrested anyone in connection to the fires.

The fire department recommends keeping dumpsters at least five feet away from any structures, and to keep your dumpsters locked if possible.

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