The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has charged the man accused of setting the two-alarm fire Sunday that damaged at least six apartments including his own in South Delridge. 35-year-old Ermiyas N. Woldearegay is charged with one count of first-degree arson. The charging documents confirm for the first time that he indeed was questioned one day earlier about a smaller fire outside his own unit. From the charging documents:
On 02.11.2023, Seattle Fire personnel responded to 1725 SW Barton St. regarding a fire on a porch of unit 104. When SFD arrived, Woldearegay was standing on the porch, “poking” at the fire with a stick. SFD put the fire out and summoned Seattle Police Department personnel, as well as Seattle Fire Investigators, to the scene. Following the interview with Woldearegay, and after unsuccessfully attempting to locate any witnesses or video of the incident, the fire cause was preliminarily determined to be “undetermined” by Seattle Fire Investigators. A Seattle Police report was written for this case (2023-040055).
On 02.12.223, at approximately 7:42 AM, Seattle Fire requested Seattle Police respond and provide traffic control at a large apartment fire at 1725 SW Barton St. Once officers arrived on scene, it was determined that Woldearegay was in a Seattle Fire Medic unit, suffering from burns related to the fire. As he was being treated, witnesses … contacted officers and stated that they had seen Woldearegay light his porch, unit 104, and their porch, unit 103, on fire. They described Woldearegay as holding a torch, manufactured from what appeared to be a wooden stick with cloth wrapped around the top. The top of the torch was on fire, and, according to (witness), appeared to be covered with some sort of accelerant, allowing the torch to burn. Woldearegay put this open flame torch to the porch of unit 103, the porch of unit 104, and the wall in-between. As this was done, the building quickly became engulfed in flames, necessitating the evacuation of the entire building. The fire grew in size and quickly spread through a large portion of the building, completely destroying a number of units.
The charging documents also say Woldearegay suffered “severe burns to his head, torso, arms, and legs.” No one else was reported injured, though as reported the day of the fire, a cat was found dead (the charging documents do not say anything about the parakeet also mentioned that day). The court papers say 11 of the building’s 14 units were occupied at the time. In discussion following our Sunday report, a commenter claimed the building is managed by supportive-housing provider DESC; we followed up and DESC spokesperson Claire Tuohy-Morgan said the organization does not manage the building but does have some tenants there. She would not comment on how many, nor whether Woldearegay is among them, citing “privacy concerns.” Woldearegay, meantime, has apparently been transferred from the hospital to jail, as he is on the King County Jail register as of just before 9 pm last night, with bail set at $250,000, which is what prosecutors say they requested. He has no felony criminal record.