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UPDATED: Fires at neighboring Spanaway stores believed to be arson

Post by Stacey Mulick / The News Tribune on April 14, 2011 at 8:32 am with No Comments »
April 14, 2011 2:35 pm

Investigators suspect fires set at two Spanaway stores Wednesday night were arson and now are looking at whether the same person started both.

“We are going with that they are linked together and looking for evidence to prove that,” Central Pierce Fire & Rescue Assistant Chief Randy Stephens said this morning.

Pierce County sheriff’s investigators have no suspects in the case as of this morning. They will be reviewing surveillance footage as part of their search for who might be responsible for the blazes.

“We don’t know who it is,” sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said. “We are continuing to work it.”

The first fire broke out at the end of an aisle in the back of Kmart, 17911 Pacific Ave., about 7:30 p.m. Employees and shoppers evacuated the building as explosions from spray paint canisters and other aerosol containers were heard in the southeast corner. Stephens said the explosions generated an intense amount of heat in the store.

“It really created a lot of heat very, very rapidly,” he said.

According to preliminary estimates, the flames and smoke caused $250,000 in damage to the Kmart building and $3 million to its contents, Stephens said. Those numbers could be adjusted today as store officials get a better look at the damage inside the store.

As fire crews worked inside Kmart, another blaze erupted inside the Dollar Tree, which is separated from Kmart by a vacant lot. Employees used two fire extinguishers to quickly douse the flames. The extent of damage was limited to the end of the aisle where it started and some coloring books, Stephens said.

No injuries were reported from either fire.

Stephens said both fires were incendiary in nature.

Tacoma-Pierce County Crime Stoppers is offering up to $1,000 for information leading to an arrest and charges filed in the case. Tipsters may remain anonymous.

Reach Crime Stoppers at 253-591-5959.

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