New information in West Seattle arson investigation, and more, @ WS Crime Prevention Council

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

No arrests yet in the West Seattle arsons.

But new information did emerge at tonight’s West Seattle Crime Prevention Council meeting.

Southwest Precinct commander Capt. Pierre Davis said that in addition to the two major early-morning arsons Sunday and Monday – the two cars in Sylvan Ridge and the High Point office building – investigators are also looking at three earlier small fires.

Those date back to a trash can fire outside a vacant house on 34th near Morgan (photo above) on October 12th (but the list they’re focusing on does NOT include the “campfire” outside the former Red Star Pizza).

He also said that SPD and other agencies – including ATF investigators – are devoting a major amount of resources to solving this. And he distributed the arson alert that we published here last night after residents reported getting it via door-to-door visits from firefighters.

Aside from the high-profile arson investigation, the major crime categories “have taken a slight dip” lately, he added, particularly robberies, which he noted have dropped almost to zero since the arrest of “an individual who got picked up in one of our other precincts.” And he mentioned again that the precinct has a watch list of more than 80 repeat offenders, about 20 of whom have been arrested. Working with the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office to be sure they stay in jail once arrested, though, is a challenge, he acknowledged.

The one specific category for which he offered numbers, burglary, is at 387 year-to-date, compared to 418 in the same period last year.

And then – seguing into “neighborhood concerns” – came the case of one specific burglary attempt that had happened just hours before.

Admiral Neighborhood Association president and Southwest District Council co-chair David Whiting. He said he had “interrupted a burglary in progress just about three hours ago,” and was troubled that officers were taken off the investigation before they found the burglar, for whom he had a practically face-to-face description. He said it was disappointing that there weren’t enough officers to keep looking for the burglar. This was right about the same time as the crisis call in Arbor Heights, which Capt. Davis – who was among the sizable contingent at that scene – described as a “potential matter of said was a potential matter of life or death.” He tried to explain that assignments have to be prioritized, but he also insisted that it would not be standard operating procedure to just entirely abandon a call like a just-occurred burglary unless something huge happened, so in this case, he felt the officers had to have been at a point where they felt they couldn’t do much more anyway. “We won’t leave you in the lurch.”

Also at the meeting, special guests requested by president Richard Miller and confirmed at the last minute, a crew from Seattle Fire Station 11 in Highland Park, in honor of Fire Prevention Month. SFD Lt. Jore Lund led a casual conversation which started with a discussion of fire extinguishers and how to translate their ratings – for example, B class is for flammable liquid; a common type of extinguisher is 2A-10BC, which is meant to be able to take care of 10 square feet of burning area – “there’s a surprising amount of fire you can put out with something like that.” Any place that uses oils to cook will have a K-class extinguisher, specifically for oil fires, which go at a higher temp.

This time of year, with the weather cooling down, chimney fires can be an issue, noted WSCPC president Miller, asking for information and advice about them. Get your chimney checked before fireplace season starts, was the advice – look for creosote buildup, especially. And when you have a fire, burn dry, well-seasoned wood – moist wood will lead to water vapor that can cause chimney problems.

Smoke detectors came up next. Don’t keep them longer than 10 years; be sure to change the batteries at least once a year. “When we say smoke detectors save lives, they really do” – Lt. Lund recounted “numerous” incidents in which they woke up everyone in the home, in time to get out safely. “Most people who are injured or die in fires, it’s smoke inhalation. You can sleep through smoke and die in your sleep.”

You can sleep through carbon monoxide, a silent, odorless killer, so those detectors are important, too – one per floor of your house.

Back to prevention: “Most of the fires we go to, clutter is a common denominator.” It especially doesn’t mix well with candles, added Lt. Lund.

And outside your house, clutter can be a target for arsonists, he said, bringing the conversation back to what’s happened here this past week-plus. “Arsonists don’t typically walk around the neighborhood with a wagon full of kindling and firewood. They don’t bring their fuels wth them – they find what’s at the site and start a fire – one thing you can do as an individual is police your house, your yard.”

After someone asked about decals for windows/doors meant to let emergency crews know what/who might be in a residence – pets, senior citizens, for example – the crew said that’s not necessarily what they’re looking at when they get to a fire scene; they assess the layout quickly, which windows are likely to be bedrooms, etc.

The fact that firefighters go to far more medical calls than fire calls came up too. Some people are surprised that a medical call brings a fire engine. It was explained that Seattle has six medic units, but most fire stations just have a single engine – some, an engine and a ladder truck, some an engine, a truck, and an aid car. But the fire engines have all the necessary medical equipment, and all firefighters are EMTs, so they are ready to handle these issues.

Is SFD having a personnel shortage like SPD?

Answer: Yes, they’re “low on firefighters,” as Lt. Lund put it, but working to hire – and, he pointed out, the department’s training facility is right here in West Seattle (the Joint Training Facility at 9401 Myers Way S., to be specific).

One more takeaway from the meeting:

Have you taken the Public Safety Survey yet?

NEXT MONTH: Third Tuesday, 7 pm, with the chief of Metro Transit Police expected as a special guest.

5 Replies to "New information in West Seattle arson investigation, and more, @ WS Crime Prevention Council"

  • Oakley34 October 21, 2015 (2:41 am)

    and now a rubbish fire in 6500 block of 40th. this is my neighborhood. Gettin to the point where I want to take my dog out on patrol middle of the night.

    • WSB October 21, 2015 (2:43 am)

      We are on our way over momentarily. Thanks to whoever texted.

  • cluelessinws October 21, 2015 (9:29 am)

    So, I am guessing these meetings are an appropriate venue to discuss or follow up with SPD on preventing a repeat of the flashers at Sealth, Holy Rosary, and Westside School last year? Also, middle school and high school students who were groped, harassed at Westwood Village and near the McDonald’s on California Ave by Hiawatha last year? Also, a number of kids were robbed of their electronics on their way to and from school.
    I might add these are all unsolved except for a flasher caught at Sealth.

    • WSB October 21, 2015 (9:38 am)

      If you’d have been there, you’d have had plenty of time to ask whatever you want. The community questions sections have continued until nobody has anything left to ask. The SPD reps, including Capt. Davis last night, stay afterward to talk with anyone who wants to converse one on one, as well. So far this year, one month in, none of the above has recurred. SPD is continuing its proactive program with the students at Denny, which we wrote about toward the end of last year. – TR

  • Andy Silber October 21, 2015 (2:18 pm)

    I agree with Oakley!

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