More followup information this afternoon on weekend news – this time, the man arrested for allegedly setting a fire underneath the Alaskan Way Viaduct on Sunday afternoon, leading authorities to close it for a while. The 52-year-old suspect waived his first appearance, and a judge set his bail at $250,000.
Probable-cause documents tell the story from the officers first noticing smoke while checking out something near Pike Place Market. As they continued to investigate, they moved toward an area under The Viaduct that they say was fenced off and marked NO TRESPASSING but had been clearly broken into and turned into an encampment with at least a dozen tents. The report said the smoke was billowing from an area between the camp and the nearby Burlington Northern railroad tracks. While they continued looking for the source of the smoke, they first spotted the suspect, standing halfway down a slope, near a Viaduct pillar, and noticed that the fire was feet away from him. The officers yelled at him to get away, but he took a few minutes to gather up some belongings before climbing up the hill. Meantime, Seattle Fire had been called in, and the officers went into the camp to evacuate people. At that point, police wrote, “The fire had grown to significant size after only a few minutes. The flames were reaching the ceiling of the roadway above, which was over 20 feet.”
While they were evacuating people, police say, some told officers that the suspect was responsible for the fire. But none would admit to seeing him start it. Several told them, though, that he had been known for burning clothing and trash and getting kicked out of camps in the area as a result. One witness then told officers she had seen the suspect adding cardboard to the fire. They subsequently placed the suspect under arrest and found three lighters and a book of matches while searching him. Then they found he was under Department of Corrections supervision; King County Jail records show this is his ninth booking into the King County Jail in the past year, and that his most recent release was just last Tuesday, after a 17-day stay. He was charged with robbery last August after a downtown shoplifting incident at a clothing store turned violent.
His next court appearance – by which time charges might be filed – is set for Wednesday. Police wrote on the hearing documents that they object to him being released – which, at $250,000 bail, he’s not likely to be – because he’s a risk to public safety and has no fixed address other than a mailing address. As for the Viaduct, spokesperson Laura Newborn says no structural damage was found, which is why inspectors gave the go-ahead for it to be fully reopened within a few hours.