West Seattle, Washington
(WSB photo: October 31, Senior Center fire)
3:46 PM: Five days after the arrest of 22-year-old Jacob Kokko in connection with the recent arsons in West Seattle, he is officially charged. The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office charged Kokko this afternoon with second-degree arson (a Class B felony), second-degree reckless burning (a gross misdemeanor), and third-degree malicious mischief (a gross misdemeanor). The charges specifically call out the two arsons in The Junction early Halloween morning – in dumpsters underneath the Senior Center of West Seattle and alongside the California/Alaska commercial building that houses businesses including Easy Street Records and Twilight Gallery – and a trash-can fire in the 6500 block of 34th SW, near his home, on October 12th.
(WSB photo: October 31, California/Alaska fire)
His bail remains set at $300,000, and he is scheduled to be arraigned (answer the charges) on November 23rd. On first look, the charging papers shine no further light on a motive, aside from Kokko telling detectives he did it because he “needed help.” As our research indicated, he has no apparent criminal history, prosecutors write, but they sought to keep the bail relatively high because “his unhinged behavior causes great concern for the safety of the community.” The Senior Center fire, in particular, could easily have spread to engulf the entire building, it’s pointed out.
Kokko was arrested last Thursday night, shortly after officers served a search warrant at his High Point home, saying they found evidence linking him to the fires. Court documents say someone who knows him recognized him in the surveillance video that shows the bus-stop fire on Morgan south of 35th being set October 12th; he is not charged in connection with that fire, though, nor with the October 18th Sylvan Ridge car arsons, or the October 19th High Point rental-office fire, or the October 21st 40th/Morgan recycling-bin fire.
ADDED 6:01 PM: Aside from the charges themselves, the information in the new documents is the same as what we reported after Kokko’s bail hearing – at which he did not appear – last Friday afternoon. He is said to have admitted to four fires, the three in which he is charged, and the bus-stop box fire which was recorded on video. He also is said to be on surveillance video setting the Senior Center fire, then walking away, and returning, apparently to be sure it was still going. Otherwise, the only other information we’ve learned about him, from separate research, is that he worked at a restaurant – not in West Seattle – and hadn’t lived here more than a few years; court files show that he was the subject of an eviction filing from an apartment on Avalon Way last summer.
10:35 PM: Per scanner, “fireplace started a wall fire.” Everyone is reported to be out safely.
10:55 PM: Our crew is on scene. Some smoke visible, and firefighters working on the wall.
Some of the responding units are being dismissed. We’ve confirmed that no one is hurt.
11:00 PM: The fire has just been declared “tapped.”
Following up on the two dumpster fires covered here early this morning – police have released the two surveillance images above and below:
They want to hear from anyone who recognizes the person in the images, which are clearly from the scene of the fire in a dumpster behind/underneath the Senior Center of West Seattle, along SW Oregon east of California SW.
(WSB reader photo, by Aaron)
The update says witnesses describe the suspect as “a 20-year-old male with a slight build, wearing a red and grey sweatshirt.” The other fire was reported in the same time frame – around 2:30 am – in a dumpster on the alley behind the California/Alaska building where businesses including Easy Street Records are located. As we reported in our early-morning coverage, both fires were put out relatively quickly, and police converged on both scenes.
Police also say they do NOT believe the fires are related to the recent High Point/Morgan arsons but they do want to hear from anyone who thinks they know the person in the photos – please call 911.
(1st and 5th photos by WSB’s Katie Meyer)
2:48 AM: Firefighters are on the scene right now of two fires, both described as being in dumpsters, in The Junction, a block and minutes apart. More to come.
(This photo & next two by WSB’s Patrick Sand)
3:04 AM: One is on the alley west of Easy Street Records (photo above this paragraph), the other (top and next photo) in the carport under the Senior Center. Too soon to say if they are related to the recent arsons in High Point and Morgan, but indications are that these were set.
3:33 AM: SFD’s investigator (Marshal 5) is taking a look at the fires first; police are continuing to search the area.
Both fires were reported around 2:30 am.
No building damage reported so far but both of these dumpsters were in positions where that could have happened. This area is about two miles from the most recent arson in the series that police have been investigating – early Wednesday, October 21st, in a recycling bin at 40th and Morgan.
4:35 PM: SPD says they don’t think these arsons are related to the recent string, but they do have a surveillance image. We’re writing a separate update but in the meantime – see the new information/imagery here.
For those who wondered about the multiple-unit fire callout in the 4500 block of Beach Drive SW, just south of Me-Kwa-Mooks Park: We’re at the scene; small fire inside the house, out very quickly, and the units still here are wrapping up; the front of the house is being ventilated with a fan.
4 PM: Here’s what’s new in the arson investigation:
Investigators were back in Morgan Junction at midday today, hours after the 2:36 am recycling-bin arson, which has been added to the list of set fires that, as first reported here last night, now dates back nine days. But those investigators weren’t just taking another look at the 40th/Morgan fire that destroyed a bin and charred a fence. We saw them also examining this:
At mid-morning today, two nearby residents called our attention to that spot of burned vegetation on the same side of Morgan as the early-morning bin fire, about a block east/uphill. The SFD call log does not show a callout for it, but neither resident could recall seeing the damage before this morning. So far, Seattle Police haven’t officially added it to the list. But for the overall series of arsons, they are now widely publicizing the $10,000 reward listed on the signs we’ve been showing you – it’s now available for information that solves this fire-setting spree. Here are the locations shown on the map included in their updated SPD Blotter post:
As Southwest Precinct commander Capt. Pierre Davis confirmed to WSB at last night’s West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting, the first fire was set in a trash can on the lawn of a vacant home in the 6500 block of 34th SW. The Seattle Fire log shows that response at 2:40 am Monday, October 12th. Today’s SPD Blotter update says another arson happened at the same time at a nearby bus stop on SW Morgan, where a burning box was found.
Then came the fires set beneath two cars parked next to each other in the 2700 block of SW Sylvan Heights Drive last Sunday morning.
One car’s owner told WSB that the fires were set in some kind of box placed under the cars. That fire callout was at 4:50 am.
On Monday morning at 3:16 am, SFD was called to a waste-bin fire outside the southeast side of the High Point rental-office building at 35th and Holly, a building whose other tenants include a mosque. Though the fire was put out before too much damage was done, you’ll recall it flared up 11 hours later, at 2 pm, bringing a huge response.
The flareup led to serious damage, especially to the building’s mansard-style roof.
Then came this morning’s fire in the recycling bin in the Morgan-facing driveway of a house in the 6500 block of 40th SW. Police responded quickly, as did SFD, but searching the area was a challenge because of thick fog. We just asked SPD again if there’s any hint of a description of a suspect, person of interest, vehicle, anything – so far, Officer Lauren Lovanhill told us, the answer to that is “no.” If you have any information that might help the investigation, don’t hesitate to call 911 or 800-55-ARSON. And in the meantime, consider taking steps to keep the arsonist(s) from finding an easy target – here again is the flyer that’s been distributed around the area, and was shared at last night’s WSCPC meeting:
You can also see it on SPD Blotter. SPD, by the way, says federal ATF investigators are working with them, and that they are checking other jurisdictions to see if anything else might be linked. So far, none of the fires have led to injuries.
ADDED 8:39 PM: Capt. Davis spoke to the Morgan Community Association‘s quarterly meeting tonight, talking about the arsons. No major new information but we recorded it on video so you could hear for yourself:
Seattle firefighters from Engine 37 also were there, and presented the type of information you see above, about keeping your home and its periphery clear of anything that might be a “target” for an arsonist.
–Tracy Record, WSB editor
3:12 AM: A recycling-bin fire wouldn’t usually draw an immediate Seattle Police response – but the recycling-bin fire just after 2:30 am alongside a house on SW Morgan, just west of 40th SW, happened within a mile of the unsolved recent arsons.
The fire marshal has just arrived to investigate, and police we talked to on the scene emphasized it was too soon to declare this related, but they’re taking no chances – as we learned at last night’s West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting, three small fires, at least one in a trash container, are also being scrutinized in the ongoing investigation – those date back as far as October 12th, before the Sylvan Ridge car arsons last Sunday and the High Point office building arson on Monday.
There’s heavy fog in Morgan and Gatewood right now, complicating things for officers looking around the area (a searchlight was shone on our car as we headed away eastbound). We’ll update when there’s more information.
8:07 AM: The now-too-familiar sign is up on the charred fence by the burned bin – ARSON, with the hotline to call if you have any information for investigators – 800-55-ARSON. Or, call 911. (Photo added.)
In case you hadn’t seen it, we wanted to show you that flyer, sent to us by multiple readers who have received it from firefighters going door-to-door tonight, in the wake of two arsons – the two cars set on fire in the Sylvan Ridge area early Sunday (WSB coverage here), and the fire set early today at 35th/Holly, the Seattle Housing Authority office building whose other tenants include a mosque (WSB morning coverage here; afternoon coverage of the flareup that further damaged the building is here). As of this afternoon, investigators were saying they had NOT found any evidence to link the two cases, so far; no word of any arrests, or even subject descriptions, yet.
2:12 PM: Fire crews are back at 6558 35th SW. The road is blocked at Holly. More to come.
2:20 PM: More fire crews continue to arrive. Firefighters are focused on the roof. Avoid the area – 35th is blocked south of Morgan and the side streets are jammed.
2:40 PM: Added photos (and Instagram video below). Firefighters are cutting into the building’s mansard-style roof.
The response has brought in multiple ladder trucks, another sign that this fire is centered atop the building, which – if you missed our coverage of this morning’s arson – is home to the Seattle Housing Authority’s High Point rental office as well as other tenants including a mosque.
2:51 PM: While we are still awaiting official information at the scene, a High Point resident says in comments that the homeowners’ association has sent e-mail describing this as a rekindled hot spot from this morning. Via the scanner, we’ve heard SFD make plans to keep “fire watch” on scene – which is typical when there’s concern a fire might re-ignite.
3:04 PM: Seattle Fire spokesperson Lt. Sue Stangl has just spoken to us and the citywide media at the scene but will not confirm that it’s a hotspot – she says their investigator is still on the way, and firefighters are still working on the roof to make sure there’s nothing else smoldering/burning. Via scanner, meantime, we’re hearing that they’re trying to move crews around so 35th SW can be reopened, but in the meantime, we’ll say it again – AVOID THE AREA – 35th is blocked south of Morgan and that’s jammed side streets such as 34th and 36th.
3:35 PM UPDATE: The fire has just been declared “tapped.” Arson investigators are at the scene (photo above). 35th SW has just reopened northbound and should have a southbound lane open soon – though we’d still advise avoiding it, as it’ll be “one lane for a (short distance) right at Holly” for a while.
4:16 PM: Commenter Nora confirms 35th is open again.
(SCROLL DOWN for midday updates – SEPARATE COVERAGE OF AFTERNOON FLAREUP IS HERE)
6:12 AM: Another arson in the High Point area this morning – second morning in a row. As you can see in our photo, “arson” is the declaration on the sign that’s up at the Seattle Housing Authority-operated office on the northeast corner of 35th and Holly [map] after someone set a fire outside its basement entrance on the Holly side just after 3 am. No one was hurt. Seattle Police and Fire investigators are looking into this; it happened less than 24 hours after two cars were set ablaze in the Sylvan Ridge area on the southeast edge of High Point, about half a mile away, though there’s no word on whether this is related – we’ll be following up on that later this morning, and also re-inquiring about the 35th/Austin (ex-Red Star Pizza) fire early Thursday. Back to this morning’s fire – staffers are already at the office cleaning up after water damage and boarding a window; they say it will be open for business today.
11:16 AM: The building is also where the High Point Masjid As Sunnah mosque meets. We stopped again at the scene to check on the cleanup, and staff told us the SHA office side is what was damaged, not the mosque’s area.
SPD tells us they’ll have information to release later this hour, so we’ll have another update coming up.
11:39 AM: Here’s what SPD has just released via its “blotter,” saying they’re not seeing a connection so far between what happened this morning and what happened early Sunday:
Seattle police responded with Seattle fire to three intentionally set fires over the weekend in the High Point Neighborhood in West Seattle.
Police and firefighters responded to the 2700 block of SW Sylvan Heights on Sunday around 4:45 AM after receiving a report of two cars on fire.
Both vehicles were parked on the street and suffered significant damage before the flames were extinguished.
In a separate incident about 24 hours later, officers and firefighters responded to a fire in an entryway of a commercial building in the 6500 block of 35 Ave SW around 3:30 AM Monday. The fire caused exterior damage to the lower level of the building as well interior damage as the flames passed through a broken window.
SPD arson detectives are investigating the two incidents, but say they have not found anything connecting the cases. Police do not currently believe Monday’s fire on 35th Ave SW was set with the intent of targeting any of the tenants of three offices on the property.
Detectives are working with the Seattle Fire Department and our federal partners at ATF on these cases. If you have any information about these incidents, please call 911.
11:52 AM: We just called to doublecheck with SPD to be sure that by “three intentionally set fires” they meant the two cars plus this morning’s fire, not something additional, and Officer Lauren Lovanhill says yes, that’s what it means. She also confirms that the ex-Red Star Pizza fire from last week is NOT considered arson nor related in any way. (Later, SFD told us SPD is investigating that fire, though, because of its proximity.)
3:01 PM: If you haven’t seen our later story yet – fire broke out at this building again an hour ago, bringing a huge callout. We are covering this separately – go here.
9:28 AM: Two cars are seriously damaged after someone set them on fire in Sylvan Ridge, east of High Point, early this morning.
It happened around 4:40 am; the cars were parked in front of townhouses in the 2700 block of Sylvan Heights Drive [map]. Residents tell WSB the fire was set in some kind of container placed under the cars:
He also showed us damage inside his car, in the back seat, which held a car seat, not seen in our photo because the fire even triggered an airbag:
No one was hurt; another resident tells us the other burned car belongs to friends who were visiting from out of town, and she says fast action by neighbors kept the flames from spreading to nearby townhomes, which don’t have much setback from the street. This happened four days after an early-morning car fire at 30th and Graham, half a mile away; we never got final word on the cause of that one, but we’re checking with police about this morning’s fires and will be asking again about that one too.
12:50 PM UPDATE: Just talked with SPD spokesperson Officer Lauren Lovanhill. The 30th/Graham fire last week was NOT related – she says that report is in the system now and says the car owner was at the scene and told officers it seemed to be a mechanical problem that sparked when he was trying to start his car. She says that while the SPD Arson/Bomb Squad was notified about this morning’s incident, they didn’t go to the scene, so the investigation is in the hands of local officers, as well as the SFD investigator (Marshal 5), who did respond; no witnesses, so they have no suspect description(s) so far.
9:55 AM: SFD has a big callout at a building in the 6900 block of California SW. More to come.
10:01 AM UPDATE: The call has already closed, and the last truck was leaving the area as we arrived. The address had changed on the log, to a row of new townhomes.
Thanks to those who’ve sent photos of this morning’s car fire at 30th and Graham in High Point; these two are from Joe Moorman. Seattle Fire spokesperson Lt. Sue Stangl says their fire investigator was not called out, but police impounded the car.
So we checked with SPD spokesperson Officer Lauren Lovanhill, who says the car was not stolen – it was registered to a West Seattle address – but it was illegally parked, and that’s apparently why it was impounded. The report’s not in the system yet, so there’s no official information on the cause. No one was hurt in the fire, which was reported around 5:20 am.
(WSB photo from Saturday)
The 18-year-old arrested in connection with last Saturday’s house fire on 31st Place SW is now charged with second-degree arson. Ezekiel M. Hoskins was arrested blocks away from the scene of the fire, less than two hours later. Charging documents include the same details we reported the day of his bail hearing, that his girlfriend said they had argued earlier in the day and that he had threatened to set the house on fire. Police say he told them he was smoking in the house that afternoon and that his discarded cigarettes might have ignited the fire, but he denied deliberately setting it; court documents say he was seen walking away from the house before an explosion that preceded the fire. While his girlfriend was quoted as telling investigators that Hoskins lived in the house, which had belonged to a relative, charging papers say he told police he had been living elsewhere with his aunt, but that they were unable to verify it. Also, while we couldn’t find a criminal record for him in previous checks, the court documents say that as a juvenile, Hoskins had two robbery convictions in the past two years. Before SFD cleared Saturday’s fire scene, a firefighter suffered a hand injury and had to be taken to the hospital. Damage to the house and its contents is estimated at $105,000; Hoskins remains in the King County Jail in lieu of $25,000 bail.
(Police and fire investigators at scene on Saturday)
An 18-year-old man is in jail, suspected of setting the fire that damaged a house in the 9200 block of 31st Place SW on Saturday afternoon. SFD confirmed on Monday that the fire had been ruled arson, but we weren’t able to confirm until this morning that a suspect is in custody. Court documents say he is the boyfriend of the 18-year-old woman who was found outside the house, “screaming and crying,” as it burned. She is reported to have told investigators the suspect lived inside the house, and that when they had argued earlier in the day, he had threatened to set it on fire. She also said the house, described by SFD and in an online complaint as “vacant,” had belonged to a relative of her boyfriend and that he had been staying there because he was otherwise homeless. A neighbor told police he had seen the man walking away from the house just before an “explosion” that preceded the fire. The suspect was found “on a pathway near the Roxhill Park entrance,” according to the probable-cause document, and recognized by officers “from prior contacts” (he does not, however, appear to have a criminal record, either felony or misdemeanor). He was booked into King County Jail on Saturday night; on Monday afternoon, a judge set his bail at $25,000. Prosecutors have until tomorrow to file charges.
(Photo courtesy Robert Ferguson)
6:24 PM:Seattle Fire is responding to a reported house fire in the 5200 block of 45th SW.
6:37 PM: SFD says this is an attic fire and that everyone got out of the house OK, no injuries reported so far.
MONDAY MORNING: SFD finally ended “fire watch” at the house, 12 hours after the fire broke out – the online 911 log showed units at the scene, rotating every few hours as is done if there’s concern about flareups, until early this morning. We’ll be checking on investigators’ official ruling of the cause. Meantime, see the comment section for a discussion of this house’s unusual history.
MONDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE: Lt. Sue Stangl with SFD says this fire has been ruled an accident – sparked by work on the house’s roof. Damage to the house is estimated at $50,000, and $20,000 to its contents.
(Added: Photo courtesy Conrad)
2:51 PM: Seattle Fire has a “full response” headed to a possible house fire in the 9200 block of 31st Place SW, which is in Westwood (map). More to come.
(Smoke was visible for blocks – photo courtesy Sebastian, looking SW over Westwood Village)
2:55 PM UPDATE: It’s a confirmed fire and SFD units have water on it.
(WSB photos from here down)
3 PM UPDATE: Now reported to be under control. One possible injury.
3:07 PM UPDATE: Via Twitter, SFD describes the house as “vacant.” That’s borne out by this DPD record for the address that SFD has logged for the fire – a complaint made and investigated less than a month ago.
3:20 PM UPDATE: Nobody hurt, we’ve confirmed with SFD. Fire investigators are en route to look into the cause. The fire is mostly out except for some smoldering in the walls. Neighbors tell us it’s been a problem house for a year or so.
3:35 PM UPDATE: Update – we’ve since been told a firefighter suffered a hand injury and has been taken to the hospital.
5:58 PM UPDATE: As mentioned in comments, fire and police investigators have been there; we went back over for photos.
Still no official word on the cause, but the police presence confirms they are investigating the possibility of arson.
MONDAY UPDATE: Lt. Sue Stangl from SFD says investigators determined that this fire was “set,” and so Seattle Police are investigating. Damage to the house is estimated at $100,000, and $5,000 to its contents.
9:41 AM: They have “water on the fire” and are searching to make sure no one’s in the house. It’s not a huge fire, though, as indicated by the call to dismiss all but four units.
9:45 AM: The fire’s now declared “tapped.”
9:50 AM: Our crew has talked to SFD at the scene. The fire was on the second floor and is believed to have been electrical in origin; everyone who was home got out OK, no injuries. Very smoky; they’re still trying to determine if the residents will be able to get back into the house safely any time soon.
4:21 PM: A big Seattle Fire response is on the way to a possible house fire in the 10200 block of 41st SW (map). More to come.
4:26 PM: First unit on scene said it appears to be a small fire on the deck.
4:46 PM: We confirmed that on scene. So small, firefighters were able to extinguish it quickly. No injuries, little damage, SFD left right after we got there.
(August 28th photo, courtesy Megan)
From the “in case you were wondering too” file: Three and a half weeks after the fire that destroyed mail and led to removal of the mailbox outside the Westwood post office, we asked USPS spokesperson Ernie Swanson if it would be back any time soon. His response: “There is no spare mail collection box of this type available. So we are repairing the old one. The process is underway and we hope to have it ‘back in place’ in the not too distant future. I can’t give you a date for that just yet.” We’re still checking on the fire investigation, but we’ve been asked several times recently about the box’s status, so here’s that followup in the meantime. If you need an outdoor dropbox, the Junction post office (California between Genesee and Oregon) still has one.
(Photo courtesy of Rachael)
10:26 AM: Seattle Fire has sent a full “fire in building” response to 5630 California SW. First crews on scene are not seeing anything. Avoid the area – traffic is blocked right now.
10:29 AM UPDATE: One crew has just found the source of the smoke – apparently a lamp. Most of the crews are being dismissed. Northbound California remains blocked, south of SW Findlay – this is on the east side of the street.